Winter’s chill and Holiday Spirit make the warmth of family, good food, and crackling fires even more magical. It’s a time to slow down to appreciate simple things, reminding us that magic exists even in mundane moments.
Contrary to what my kids’ Christmas lists may suggest 😉, we don’t need extravagance to feel awe and wonder; it’s about seeing the miracles in everyday life, as children’s author Hans Christian Andersen said. We often miss these moments due to busyness, but once we realize this, we can live more fully.
When I notice my feelings and surroundings, whether it’s appreciating sunlight shining through the window onto our sleepy dogs or a stranger’s humanity, I notice the miracle of each moment.
The miracle of each moment is born when I stop looking past it to the next thing. When I stay in tune, instead, with exactly what I am doing, I can find greater appreciation in whatever it may be.
I can appreciate the fullness of a hearty laugh with my daughter, breathing fresh air as I rush a forgotten item to the kids’ car before they take off for school 😆, or the early winter snowflakes meandering lazily from the sky.
As amazing as this sounds, how do you get there? The question is valid: for families that struggle with ADHD, executive function, or mental health challenges, slowing down to enjoy the moment may as well seem like climbing Mount Everest; self regulation and calm may seem way too far out of reach. Here is where tuning into the five senses offers a hidden gem.
Capturing Calm With the Five Senses
One way to practice capturing calm is to turn directly to the five senses. This practice has been particularly successful in helping anxiousness and anxiety in humans with autism, and the application is growing! This particular exercise is taken from the University of Rochester Medical Center, but you can find it across mental health communities.
This five-step exercise can help to ground you in the present when your mind is bouncing around between various anxious thoughts.
Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep, long breaths can help you maintain a sense of calm or help you return to a calmer state. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
- 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
- 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.
- 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
- 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
- 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
Magic in Music
I have also found that listening to music works especially well for helping me slow down to capture the magic of the present moment. Try listening to a favorite Christmas song, or one that brings out feelings of thankfulness. Notice all of the sensory references! Two of my favorites for this time of year are “How Great Thou Art,” and “Oh Holy Night.”
I’ve included the Pentatonix versions for you here. If you enjoy a powerful, family-friendly a cappella concert, put them on your list!
OK, and I just can’t resist adding this one too – There Can Be Miracles When You Believe with Maren Morris.
Something about returning to the senses, reconnecting the link between our body, mind, and surroundings, becomes a reassuring act.
Author Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author, podcaster, and speaker writes, “Creating a five-senses portrait is an enjoyable family activity, makes a thoughtful gift, and can help you capture a meaningful moment in time…No surprise, research shows that recalling happy memories from the past is a good way to boost happiness in the present—and this exercise is fun, manageable, and surprisingly satisfying.”
You can find out more about Gretchen Rubin’s research on the five senses in the links above. Her latest work can be especially helpful in creating calming activities for children who resist other self-regulation strategies. The Five Senses Holiday Portrait “A Kansas Christmas” Rubin and her sister created is pictured here!
The Power of Perspective
Cortland Dahl, a mindfulness researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, (go Badgers!) says the difference between mundane and meaningful is perspective.
Perspective shifting (we call it possibility-thinking at YP) changes routine tasks into purposeful acts; cooking becomes nourishing, exercising gratitude, and cleaning appreciation. Even taking out the trash can be done with a smile. Author’s note: I will most certainly bring this perspective to loading and unloading the dishwasher at my house.
Dahl’s research brings us back to the power of positive mindset, one of the key foundational philosophies used in Yellow Parachute in our Quantum Jump programming. Dahl demonstrates that with practice, shifting our perspective can lighten our burdens and help us appreciate life, even in adversity.
We can always find positives in any situation without negating the seriousness. Holding onto this perspective helps us be more compassionate and present each day, noticing the little bits of magic around us.
One of my favorite quotations that captures this heart-attitude, as I’ve nicknamed it,
“Write it on your Heart, that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you are looking for a way to begin the New Year with intentional practice of shifting your perspective, we’ve created a simple tool to help you do that! Download your copy of our 2023 End of Year Reflection, and use it on your own or with some of your favorite people.
Wishing you magic in the mundane moments this season and every season!
Yours in the Journey,