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Gemma Sandwell, Bsc.Hons.

Mindfulness Teacher & Chief Happiness Officer

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Presents in the Present: A letter to those wanting to find calm and comfort over the Festive period.

Dear Hurried One

This time of year may be feeling overwhelming, presents to buy, work Christmas events, family events, beautiful Christmas lights, Christmas music. Christmas music, Christmas music. You might be thinking if I have to listen to Mariah Carey one more time I am going to dive straight into the chocolate shelf of the Christmas isle in Tesco, oh whoops the Toblerone I bought for the father in law has now been eaten in the car on the way home! Sound familiar? Read on.


See the thing is, you can look after yourself over Christmas you can focus on self care and there are ways to be present and joyful without feeling overwhelmed. Its easy to get swept up in what’s happening but please realise that you need to make sure your own cup is full first so you can give to others.


A really simple way to do this is to slow down and appreciate the present moment. Stop and look at the pretty lights, get out in nature if you can, a great way to engage the senses. Spot what’s around you, the feel of the breeze on your face, the festive decorations, the trees losing their leaves and ready to draw in for the winter. The joy of the coffee or hot chocolate when you come in from the cold, this is one you can share with family and friends, see how many things you can spot in nature and then see how creative you can be with the joyful cozy hot drink as come into the warm. If you are noticing what’s going on around you, you are being mindful, you’re practising mindfulness. If you notice the mind wandering gently bring it back to the present moment.


If you have a dog think about what the dog might be thinking about on the walk. Is the dog worried about whether the presents have been bought and if Aunt Mildred will have enough Sherry this year? No! I know it sounds silly but animals and children are naturally very mindful…simply tuning in with your senses you can be too and we know the benefits that mindfulness has on the brain. Not only reducing our stress and anxiety but helping grow the parts of the brain needed for productivity and creativity as well as resilience, all useful skills over the Christmas period and a good start with filling your cup so you don’t go into it frazzled.


Another way to find your calm is to eat slowly purposefully and mindfully throughout the festive season. Its been found when we eat mindfully not only do we savor and enjoy the food more but we are likely to eat less and less fat is even stored in our bloodstream! Bringing in a sense of gratitude for the food too and gratitude for what you have at Christmas time, whether it’s a lot or a little. Grateful for family and friends, grateful for the neighbours Christmas lights (free joy!). A favourite one for me…grateful for a cup of tea every morning…its that simple!


When I taught Mindfulness to a local group of Brownies last month to get their Mindfulness badge they taught me so much, I set them a challenge to come up with 10 things they were grateful for. They went above and beyond, over 17 thing some of them…they reminded me that if you have a roof over your head or clean water to drink or even the fact you are breathing is something to be grateful for. Gratitude has huge effects in rewiring the brain for happiness and productivity, think about how you can tune into it over the festive season, what are you grateful for right now?


I know you may be thinking that time with family may be difficult. You don’t have to force a joyful experience if you are not feeling it, any emotion you are feeling is valid and its important to express this, write down how you are feeling or draw a picture to express it and get it out either before guests arrive or during. If there is a particular person who makes you feel less than joyful, write them a letter and don’t send it, just use it as the time to get the feelings out, just make sure you safely burn it or rip it up afterwards!


I usually find if I can do just 10 minutes of meditation before I start the day this can help get me into a good place for whatever the day brings. I also find it helps fill my cup if I take a few minutes away from the busy things and the drama. Just taking 5 minutes to get outside in the air can make a huge difference and give yourself a break. If you have a dog, take the dog for a walk, if you have children then take them outside to see the Christmas lights etc etc…get creative with taking a little bit of time out or perhaps a walk with the family to help the food go down and Mindfulness spot festive lights together.


It’s also okay to say no and to reduce time spent with people if they don’t fill your cup. This is something I have had to learn the hard way being a huge people pleaser in the past and being a natural introvert and a highly sensitive person in a world of extroverts.


Please think of ways you can fill your cup first other wise it will be empty by the time Christmas is over. I’ve found that 10 minutes time out to me seems like a good amount of time but no one else is thinking about where you have gone, people are thinking of themselves (or the children) usually so do what you need to do.


I think of it like an outfit, you know when you wear an outfit then you think oh should I wear that again people have seen that outfit? But when you think about what everyone else is wearing, unless its something random like a Noel Edmonds Christmas jumper (no judgement if that is your choice of outfit!) you are unlikely to remember!! So it’s the same with self-care, do what you need to do, everyone is different.


So as a reminder


- Be present, tune in with your senses and eat mindfully

- Bring a sense of gratitude to whatever you’re doing big or small

- Its okay to say no, its okay to have mini ‘you’ moments, in fact it’s essential and the likelihood is no one is noticing/judging you.

See if you can find yourself a Christmas well being buddy to help hold you to account, tapping into kindness is also a way forward….commit to each other some self-care and escape activities. You are more likely to put self care first if you have committed it to someone else and help them by holding them to account too, perhaps its committing to the 10 minutes of meditation in the morning or a dog walk after Christmas dinner. Perhaps its texting your well being buddy every day with something you are grateful for? Think creative here!


If you would like to learn a Mindfulness habit for life over the festive season or buy a Mindfulness recording to help you through. You can learn my course in your own time, at home or on the go! Perhaps get family and friends involved in the mindful practices too! Sign up here for my self-led option with top up support available.


https://www.thehappinessbranch.com/product-page/self-led-8-week-mindfulness-course


A very Happy Holidays and Joyful and Mindful New Year


Gemma – Mindfulness teacher, TEDx speaker and Chief Happiness Officer



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