Giving Presence Vs Presents This Holiday Season


December 13, 2021

Some days, I feel like I give a lot of myself to others throughout the day. From the time I wake up at 6:30 a.m. to accommodate my dog’s need to go outside, until the end of the day when I ask my fiancee how her day was, I give a lot of my time and energy to my work, relationship, family, and friends. And even though I’m taking the time to check in on everyone else, it makes me feel drained and distracted when I’m not also checking in with myself.

This can be especially true during the December holidays. With Christmas to-do lists and planning starting as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are finished, my attention tends to be everywhere else and not on how I’m feeling and what I need. But as noble as it seems to just push through until January without any self-care, giving the gift of presence often means more to my loved ones than I realize.

Being Physically Present vs Fully Present

When it comes to being present, it’s easy to misunderstand the meaning. I’ve always made an effort to be physically present with friends and family during the holidays, but in reality, my mind was usually miles away. We could all be sitting in the same room together or gathered around the family table, but my mind was always focused elsewhere – on what needed to happen later that day or week, or on what I should have done yesterday.

In other words, even though I was physically present with the ones I love the most, I was not fully living in the present moment with them. So although they appreciated me at the table, they could tell that something was missing in the moments we were spending together. And I wanted to be able to fully participate in the present moment without looking at my watch and thinking about how much more I could get done if I wasn’t there – but how?

How to Give the Gift of Presence

I learned over time that when it comes to what my loved ones want from me for the holidays, I needed to refocus. Yes, gifts are always appreciated, but what they really wanted was me. They may enjoy and appreciate the gifts that I stress out about finding, buying, and wrapping – but in reality, what they’ll remember more is talking, laughing, and connecting with me when we’re together.

My mindfulness practice has helped me take some time for myself, becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings.  And it has also helped me realize that it’s normal for my thoughts to wander (that’s part of being human!) and that I can gently walk my awareness back to where I really want to be – in the present moment with my loved ones. Using the sounds of their talking and laughter and the smells of food and coffee as anchors, I can simply be aware that my mind is wandering again and come back to the conversation we’re having. 

Practicing mindfulness for a few minutes every day helps me bring more curiosity and awareness into my life all year long, and there are live and on-demand programs such as Mindful Dailies and 7 Days of Harmonious Holidays to help you be more mindful this holiday season.

Written by Becky Greiner