When home for the holidays, using elements of mindfulness can help you get ahead of potential conflict and make the most of family time.
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are going to be here before we know it. For some, it’s a time to contemplate how to maneuver through being with family when tensions become high. We all want to spend the holidays connected — but what happens when those connections are tenuous?
Mindfulness is a practice that can help us have an enjoyable time, while avoiding the drama that can sometimes ensue around family.
While mindfulness is what we practice, it’s how we apply it to our thinking that makes the difference. It’s important to be present in the moment but also to apply a certain perspective to our thinking and honor that perspective during the interaction with family.
Try the following steps before your upcoming holiday gathering:
1. Make the decision to participate
If you decide to be part of the family festivities, then own the choice you make. In owning it, it is up to you to honor this choice, take responsibility for making it and have your best foot forward so it is enjoyable for you.
2. Decide to be mindful and present in the moment
Experience the moment through your senses: sounds, smells, tastes, visuals. Embrace the wonderful time with gratitude that you have family/friends to enjoy the time with in a nonjudgmental, non-critical manner.
3. Consider sharing a plan with family members
Contract with them that you agree to have a good time and avoid conversations about taboo subjects or topics of contention.
4. If you have a good relationship with one of the family members who will be present, reach out ahead of time.
Let them know your apprehensions or worries, and discuss how to tackle issues that may arise.
5. Make the moment memorable
Bring a dish to share, a bouquet of flowers, a family photo album, a gift for the host —anything that will add some extra positivity.
6. Make a peace plan
Think about what to do if one of your family members starts to instigate. Try not to react. Walk into another room and take a breath. Ask your go-to person to run some passive interference. Reaffirm that you are there to enjoy the moment and not discuss any subjects of discontent.
Remember that mindfulness is not just a practice, but also a perspective. Using mindfulness to reaffirm why you are there at the event along with practicing in the moment is key.
The most important thing in mindfulness is the understanding that this is a non-judgmental practice. Remembering this for yourself as well as regarding your attitude towards others will help you to increase your own success in the interaction with family that may not have the ability to bridge the gap using the same skills.
Happy healthy holidays to everyone — enjoy the moments we have together!
Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, of Farmington Hills, owns Journey Within LLC Behavioral Health Services in Southfield, MI. (www.jwithin.com). She earned her master’s in social work at the University of Michigan. In her practice, she uses various methods including EMDR, CBT, DBT, TRT, art and journaling. She made aliyah to Israel at age 18 and lived there until age 42. She studied at Haifa University and is is fluent in Hebrew. As a world traveler, she has a global view and a background in world religions and diversity.
Read more: Mindfulness: What Does it Really Mean?