Use This 25-Day Meditation ‘Advent Calendar’ To Better Navigate the Stress of the Holiday Season

Photo: Getty Images / fotostorm
Advent calendars are traditionally used to count down the days to Christmas. Sometimes you open up paper windows on the calendar to reveal painted scenes beneath, or even better, chocolates or other candies. It’s objectively a delightful holiday tradition.

Now, I love chocolate as much as the next person, but what if we switched it up with our Advent calendar this year? As a meditation teacher, I propose adding mindfulness to the mix to ease seasonal stress and help you find moments of calm despite it being the busiest time of the year. Meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, regulate emotions, and even change the way we respond to others. What better time to practice it than during the holidays, when tensions may be running high?

To help, I put together 25 simple meditations you can use to keep your cool throughout the holiday season. All you need is yourself, a comfy place to sit or lie down, and five minutes. Yes, you heard that right: only five minutes per day!

In this self-guided calendar, you’ll find a variety of mindfulness techniques. When using them, remember that it’s really normal to experience thoughts while meditating. It means that your brain is working properly, and it’s part of being alive. When you start to notice that your mind is getting loud, simply bring yourself back to your point of focus (i.e. your breath or a mantra).

Have extra time? Extend your meditation to 10, 15, or even 20 minutes. Whatever suits you best.

meditation holiday calendar
Art: W+G Creative

Keep reading for 25 days of meditations for holiday stress to keep you balanced this season:

Day 1: Focus on natural breathing

Natural breathing (or breath awareness) is used in traditional yoga and mindfulness practices, and it’s all about focusing on the normal rhythm of your breath without trying to change it in any way. Simply draw your awareness to your inhales and exhales during your five-minute session. Do this over and over again whenever your mind starts to drift.

Day 2: Repeat a calming mantra

Mantra is the silent internal repetition of a word or phrase. It’s known as a “mind vehicle,” because it helps take your mind into a quiet state. Repeat the mantra “I am calm” to yourself for the duration of your five-minute practice to will yourself to a more tranquil place.

Day 3: Reflect on gratitude

Meditations involving gratitude are a great way to reflect on all the good in your life. Start your meditation by asking yourself the question “What am I grateful for?”, then reflect on the things that pop into your mind. Breathe gently as you do this. Really feeling the gratitude move towards your heart.

Day 4: Send health to a friend

Loving Kindness, traditionally referred to as “metta,” is a meditation technique that involves sending energetic love to yourself and others. We do this by repeating a phrase the same way we would repeat a mantra. The difference: picture someone in your mind and send them that love. For today’s practice, picture a friend in your mind and wish them well by saying “May you be healthy.”

Day 5: Visualize the most patient version of yourself

Visualization is such a great tool to connect to how it is you most want to feel. Especially during the holiday season, it’s important to tap into the best case scenario and try to manifest it as best you can. Today, begin to visualize the most patient version of yourself. Picture them moving through their day. When the five minutes is up, hold that vision with you throughout the rest of the day to manifest patience.

Day 6: Extend your exhales

For today’s breathing meditation, focus on making your exhales longer than your inhales. This helps signal to our body and brain that it is safe to relax. It works wonders for your nervous system! Inhale for four counts, exhale for five, or just go based on feeling. As best you can, try making your exhales one or two counts longer than your inhales.

Day 7: Manifest peace for yourself

Bring peace to your mind today, holiday chaos be damned, by repeating the mantra “I am at peace” during your meditation. Even if you don’t feel it right away, stay with the mantra for the full five minutes and open yourself up to the possibility of peace in your life. Eventually it will come, if you allow it to flow.

Day 8: Take time to appreciate your body

Today, start with the prompt I am grateful for my body because… Sit in gentle reflection. Maybe you’re grateful to your legs for taking you where you want to go. Maybe it’s your heart for protecting you, or your nervous system for helping you sleep. As you meditate on this, you may even start to feel a smile spread across your face.

Day 9: Send happiness to a loved one

For today’s practice, think of a family member in your life who could use some extra love or care—maybe someone you won’t get to see this holiday season, or someone who’s going through a rough patch. Once you have someone in mind, picture them and begin to repeat “may you be happy” in your mind.

Day 10: Picture your dream life

Imagine yourself moving through a day in your dream life. Start the meditation by declaring to yourself, “My dream life looks like…” then let your mind run wild, almost as if you were watching a movie. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with?

Day 11: Count out your breaths

Breath counts are great for coming back to the present moment, especially during times of high stress (ahem, the holidays). As you inhale, count to four. As you exhale, count to 4. Repeat this for the duration of your practice. If possible, breathe in and out through your nose. This triggers something called the vagus nerve and helps us relax deeper.

Day 12: Remind yourself of your support

The winter holidays can be an isolating time particularly for people who have difficult relationships with their families. Combat that loneliness or stress today by repeating the mantra “I am supported,” throughout your practice. Let it be simple, allowing the mantra to do the work.

Day 13: Reflect on meaningful relationships

For today’s meditation, reflect on all the people in your life who you love. Think about what their presence means to you and how they enhance the quality of your life. Once the meditation is complete, carry that sensation of thankfulness with you the rest of your day. Maybe even calling up your bestie to tell them how much they mean to you.

Day 14: Send ease to a stranger

Loving Kindness: stranger edition. Maybe it’s the face of someone you saw in the street or the barista who made your midday latte. Don’t overthink this, just let it be the first person who comes to your mind. Picture them and begin to repeat “May you live with ease.”

Day 15: Picture a calm day

Cultivate calm with a short visualization. At the start of your meditation, set the stage by saying to yourself: “The calmest version of my day looks like…” Fill in the blanks by playing it out in your head and bask in the serenity.

Day 16: Refocus with your breath

For day 16, we’ll be using a specific breathing technique that helps with focus—perfect for helping you power through that end-of-year to-do list. Inhale deeply through your nose. Once you get to the top of your breath, hold it for one to two seconds (or however long feels comfortable). Then exhale fully. When you get to the bottom of your exhale, hold your breath for a few seconds again. Repeat this pattern for five minutes.

Day 17: Make trust your mantra

Today we will be using the mantra “I trust” for your meditation. Let this mantra soothe any uncertainties you may be experiencing in your life right now, easing the mind and bringing calm to the situation. Repeat for the duration of your meditation.

Day 18: Recognize the abundance in your life

It can be easy to see the glass as half-empty, especially in comparison to family members or high school friends you only see this time of year. To combat this, reflect on the pre-existing abundance in your life during your meditation today. This could be the food in your fridge. The trees on your street. Abundance does not only mean money, it seeps into all other areas of your life. Expand your mind to look at all the things you do have, as opposed to what you’re lacking.

Day 19: Send love to a place

This may seem strange or even uncomfortable at first, but for a lot of us, places have meaning—even more so during the holiday season. If there is a place you deeply resonate with, picture it in your mind and repeat “May you flourish.” It could be your childhood home, which is now occupied by new tenants. It could be the beach you often frequent, or even your favorite country.

Day 20: Take a mental nature walk

Nature has a healing effect and this can be easily noticed when we spend enough time in it. For today’s meditation, visualize yourself someplace in nature. You could picture yourself walking through the woods, swimming in the lake, or lying on the beach. If you have easy and safe access to it, take this meditation outside into the real world to breathe the fresh air.

Day 21: Link your inhales and exhales

On Day 16, we did breath holds. This practice will be the opposite of that. When you sit or lie down to meditate, link your inhales and exhales so that they effortlessly flow into one another. Take out the pause between breaths and let your breath move through a loop. Repeat for the five-minute session.

Day 22: Feel the love

You are so loved. Today’s mantra is a reminder of that. Repeat to yourself “I am loved” over and over again. As you meditate, really let that knowledge sink in.

Day 23: Give thanks to your home

Reflect today on what you are grateful for about your home. Maybe it’s the fuzzy blankets, the way you can totally be yourself, or the people (and fur babies) who share the space.

Day 24: Send freedom to all beings

Today, we are going to use our meditation to embody true holiday spirit and create a sense of community. To all beings everywhere, send out a phrase of loving kindness that reads “May your stress dissolve. May you feel free.”

Day 25: Picture a peaceful rest

Congrats! This practice marks the end of your self-guided meditation advent calendar. To finish it all off, visualize a peaceful day. One that is full of smooth sailing, love, and joy. Let your mind travel to the best case scenario, knowing that whatever comes your way today, you’ve got this.

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