From Grinchy to Grateful in 5 Simple Steps

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Did you realize it is officially the holiday season?

According to my cyber search, as many as three quarters of all retailers believe the holiday season begins November 1st. In other words, the stores have been gearing up for Christmas and Hanukkah since pumpkin spice lattes became fashionable. I woke up last Friday in a bit of a shock. I did not feel ready.

It seems that while some of us were being mindful in the moment, noticing one beautiful fall leaf at a time, the rest of the world was moving forward. Now there are big piles of dead leaves in the front yard and our neighbors have already decorated for the holidays. It hit me hard this year.

I was grinching a bunch about the “part time job of Christmas” until I remembered that gratitude thing. Hold on for a minute, I thought to myself, I have so much to be thankful for this season. I hope you also have abundance this year. Is it possible to maintain gratitude with all the consumer pressure to buy more and do more?

Applying mindfulness to the madness of holidays I think we can go from grinchy to grateful in five (fairly) simple steps:

1. Breathe

Your cluttered mind is telling you that you will never get it all done, but every year you do. If you are overwhelmed by all that needs to be done the commercials have saturated your psyche. The to do lists of hostess gifts, family gifts, baking, and entertaining can take your breath away. Resist.

Reclaim your mind by starting with your breath. Give yourself permission to take five minutes to breathe deeply with your eyes closed and quiet the negative thinking. Remember you are not late. It is an illusion. Focus on your breathing to still your body and refresh your mind.

2. Set your intention

How do you want to approach the holidays? What are your true goals? Jot down these incomplete sentences and fill in the blanks (with a calm brain).

  • This holiday season my main focus is: —————–
  • I want to be ———————– in my gift giving.
  • I choose to be ——————————- in my entertaining and party going.

By setting your intention at the beginning of the holiday season, you will have an easier time with decision making as you go forward. No one sets out to be exhausted and resentful. With an intention of being rested and gracious you will be more selective about what you prepare for guests and how many invitations you accept.

3. Make a list- Check it twice

It is human but unwise to go into the grocery store hungry and without a list. It is disastrous to approach holiday shopping in a similar fashion. Lists are needed even for cyber shopping!  Awareness of your budget as well as who and what events you are shopping for will save you from multiple trips or financial regret.

There are systems of gift giving that can provide fun boundaries, so you are not bedazzled by shiny objects and purchase more than you intended. A few years ago, I adopted a new strategy for gift giving that I enjoy. Immediate family members get four gifts from me:

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

To add to the delight of gift giving, consider where you shop. Some brands have a “give back” policy of donating to a particular cause that may be near and dear to you or your gift recipient. Shopping locally, rather than online or the mall, can contribute much needed tax dollars to your community and boost your neighborhood small business owners. If someone on your list is a reader and/or a writer, remember to check out local authors at independent book stores. Signed copies are a treasure to give and get!

4. Celebrate in Style

Get your holiday on! Dress the part of the calm and joyful consumer. Dig out that ugly Christmas/Hanukkah sweater and hit the stores (or your laptop) suited for success. Don’t forget your list!

Grinch alert:  there are some predictable pitfalls. The halls are decked and crowded. The music is loud and can jangle the nerves. Some of the sales people will smack their gum and ignore you completely. The lines are long. Other shoppers may not be as joyful as you. Some parties are too much.  Take a bathroom break to collect yourself and return to step one. Breathe. If centering for a few minutes is not effective to turn your mood around, listen to your own wise advice: “Good enough for today. You have time. You got this.”

Every mindful practice begins with breath and ends with gratitude. Gratitude is the gift we give ourselves.

5. Be Grateful

Make a point this season to take time out of your schedule to pause and remember to be grateful. There is so much extraordinary ordinary wonder in the world. A written or virtual WWW “What went well today” one line journal entry/reflection would be the sprinkles on top of your grateful mindset.  Daily WWW will train your attention to notice the quiet kindnesses and unexpected goodness that might otherwise be overshadowed by frustrations or mishaps.

Friends, can we be Zen in the midst of a fa la la la frenzy?


When we are mindfully prepared and focused on the present moment, we can bring more “peace and calm” to the holiday season. I wish you bunches of that.

What are your intentions this year?