Adjust your seasonal traditions to add a little more flow.
Your health might be top-of-mind when it’s time to use the rest of your health plan’s flexible spending account, or when you’re coming down with the flu. But when you’re chugging an egg nog latte and racing through the mall with hundreds of last-minute shoppers, it’s easy to forget that the dollar — or the hour — you spend on living life in a high-vitality, enjoyable way is a small investment compared to the thousands of dollars spent as a consequence of ignoring the things that contribute to vitality, and suffering from chronic disease or something more catastrophic.
“Health is wealth,” so the saying goes. Good health is more than being illness-free. It’s vitality, the ability to engage in the world to the fullest extent possible. And there’s a lot of research that shows that we’re more creative, adaptive and innovative when we can experience flow states, or when we can experience those shifts of waking consciousness to something more interesting. And we tend to get to flow states more frequently and more successfully when we’re physically vitalized and aligned.
Fortunately, some of our holiday traditions are tailor-made flow triggers, or close to it. You can tweak yours — or try some new ones.
- Think of traditions that resonate for you. Anticipation is just another way into a flow state. For Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne wrote, although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before Pooh began to eat it that was better than when he was eating it. My family was old-school English, so there was plenty of delay of gratification. It’s now a standing family joke, but creating rituals and traditions can extend and intensify the moment. Want to take it a little further? Banish TV on those days. Be together; it’s rare enough.
- Consider segmenting things. For instance, if it’s a gift exchange at Christmas, consider having stockings that the kids get to open first thing (instead of letting them ransack the tree), and keep that a separate experience and a separate part of the day. Then let the tree be the center of another part of the celebration, when everyone takes turns opening presents one at a time, with “thank yous” and attention to the thought, the intention and the relationships behind the gifts. Stretch that out and make it meaningful and sincere!
- Incorporate rituals like reading stories and lighting candles. As a kid, I loved anything having to do with fire and cool physics, so I loved the Swedish candle carousel that we lit every night. There are many cultural and religious traditions that revolve around stories and lights — families often put their own non-denominational twist on them — and winter solstice celebrations are timeless. Find the ones that are interesting to you, that overlap with your family history — or grab some new ones and then enjoy going through those rituals together.
- Play games — such as card games and board games. The thought of four family members all sitting separately and using different devices to entertain themselves is just tragic. This year, go analog and allow the human element to be part of the richness and the flow.