It is that time of year when many of us attend holiday parties and celebrate with colleagues and loved ones while eating and drinking to excess and spending too much money. The Holidays invariably seem to revolve around indulgence—indulgence in food, drink, and shopping. These costly behaviors tend to take a toll on our health, well-being and our wallets.
This Holiday season, indulge mindfully in something less extravagant but more fulfilling—connection. Your body and your bank account will thank you. Moreover, practicing mindfulness is a crucial component of successful leadership. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Your choices impact all areas of your life.
Mindful eating: savor the experience
Who does not associate the Holidays with an abundance of food and alcohol? Whether it is at home or a restaurant, it is almost impossible to anticipate this time of year without stirring up images of sharing a table with loved ones. A mindful approach to eating can be the difference between a nurturing experience we remember fondly and an indulgent one we regret.
Savor the moment and experience. Indulge in all of your senses. Smell the mouth-watering aroma. See the colors, and the proportions of each food group on your plate Chew your food well while putting down the cutlery in between mouthfuls. Taste each ingredient or try to identify what the ingredients are. Listen to the sounds you and your food make while eating. Feel gratitude for those who prepared the food and for the farmers and workers who did the labor to bring the food to the table. Feel your stomach filling up. Slowing down gives you time to fully
appreciate the experience, and to mindfully connect with your food and those around you.
Science backs up the benefits of slow and mindful eating. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. If you rush through your meal, you do not allow your body to complete a healthy feedback loop. You are more likely to overeat and end up feeling stuffed. Engage in your senses and fully experience the food and conversation. This will maximize your appreciation of the moment, and minimize post-holiday weight gain.
Mindful drinking: sip smarter
Holiday meals—as well as the ubiquitous holiday company party—often come with alcohol. For those of us who can indulge in wine or other such beverages, they can enhance food and facilitate conversation and companionship. As with food, a mindful approach will help us moderate, enjoy, and steer clear of regret.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Drink a glass of water in between drinks—which will keep you hydrated and slow your drinking pace. Practice moderation by nursing your drinks. Sip slowly and savor. There is no need to rush and gulp down the entire glass of wine. Keep the focus and intention of the gathering on the people rather than what is being served. Remember that liquid calories count and can also increase appetite and lead to mindless eating.
Research indicates that mindful drinking tends toward moderate drinking. Slowing down and taking pleasure with each sip interrupts the compulsiveness that fuels excessive drinking. When we are aware, and in the moment, we can make conscious and deliberate choices rather than automatically give in to impulse. Mindful drinking avoids the notorious hangover and leaves you feeling good the following day.
Mindful experiences: engage more
Mindful indulgence is about experience rather than consumption. Experience tends to ground us in the present, and to foster connection—with ourselves, others, and the world. The difference between impulsive consumption and mindful experience is about both the choices we make and our mindset.
The more profound value of experience is backed up by over a decade of research into how experiential purchases are ultimately more satisfying than material ones. Experiential purchases are about identity and connection. The best experiences accrue value over time as we reflect on them and share stories and memories. Similar to the new car that immediately drops in value the moment we drive it off the lot, material purchases quickly depreciate.
A given material purchase can be an end in itself or a springboard for experience, depending on how we approach it. For example, we can buy a camera for someone or ourselves and leave it at that. Alternatively, we can delve deeper and enroll in a photography class or do so with a friend. The camera becomes a means to an experience rather than just an object. Gifts built around experience include classes, massages, artistic performances, museum passes, trips, and other ventures. The possibilities are endless.
Choose a shared experience instead of a material gift where connections can be deepened. Connection lends meaning to experience. Some of the most enduring ones are the simplest and priceless ones. When you shift your mindset and behavior to indulge in meaningful connection, you will strengthen existing connections and make new ones.
The Holidays do not have to be a series of indulgences we must later recover from, and in some cases regret. Mindfully indulging in connection—with ourselves, food, drinks, people, and experiences—can bring us greater joy and fulfillment and carry us into the New Year with fresh energy, focus, and purpose.
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Published on Forbes on Dec. 18, 2018.