As the winter holidays approach, our days seem to move at an increasingly frenetic pace. Shopping lists are made, decorations are put out, online orders are placed, tables are set, and our lists are checked twice, hoping that we haven’t forgotten anything amidst the end-of-year hustle and bustle.
Repetition is a hallmark of holiday traditions. In honoring them year after year, we cherish their inception and fondly recall the mark they’ve made on our lives. The anticipation of what’s to come is what makes them both enjoyable and sacred. New traditions are formed as variations of the old and there’s a comfort in bringing together the familiar with the unestablished.
As routine as these final months of the year can feel, inevitably there will be interruptions and changes. Whether they’re significant — you’re snowed in and can’t make it to your aunt’s house on Christmas Eve — or subtle — you burn a pan of cookies in your baking frenzy — learning to expect that things won’t always go as planned can help you navigate each unexpected turn with greater ease.
There’s a simple practice I’d like to share that when done consistently can transform how you respond to the season’s ebbs and flows. Upon waking each morning, ask yourself, “I wonder what today will bring.”
These six words help us shift from a rigid mindset to one that’s more open and relaxed. Instead of focusing on what we want our days to look like, we make room for the unknown. We free ourselves from unrealistic demands and are more flexible in expectations of ourselves and others.
Here are a few benefits of starting your morning with this key phrase:
1. Each day feels like an adventure: Not knowing exactly how the next 24 hours will unfold can bring about a sense of excitement akin to what you might experience when you’re curled up with a psychological thriller. Sure, you don’t want to feel goosebumps all day or wonder what’s lurking around each corner. But why not let this inquiry bring a smile to your face? I love waking up and feeling a rush of adrenaline from thinking about what the day might have in store. Many of the schedule changes we face or notifications we receive are positive, so don’t spend your valuable mental energy worrying about the ones that are only likely to cramp your style.
2. The hard stuff doesn’t feel so hard: Much of the suffering we experience is a result of feeling anxiety around what might happen or ruminating on what’s already passed. Our minds are uniquely skilled at saturating our experiences with memories of old pain while our imaginations conjure up all the possible negative outcomes. Unfortunately, we often dwell in this space and fail to see the reality before us. By approaching our days with a greater sense of openness and curiosity, we’re better able to bounce back after things don’t go our way. We can respond to the hard stuff with a clear head rather than viewing it as an obstacle against which to rebel.
3. We’re more flexible with our time: This one is a real game-changer. By welcoming the day’s hiccups, we’re naturally more gentle with ourselves about how we spend our time. Think of it as training your brain to go with the flow. This doesn’t mean you’re free to squander away your most valuable hours, but it might mean you spend 5 extra minutes on something you enjoy because you know adding that finishing touch will go a long way. Or you may find you have an extra half-hour to squeeze in a workout because you’re not spending as much time stressing about that meeting with your boss that’s tentatively scheduled 3 weeks from now.
4. We’re more mindful: Mindfulness encompasses approaching our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with open, non-judgmental awareness. It doesn’t mean we like the chaos or uncertainty that comes our way, but that we accept it as part of our present moment experience. This practice is one of my favorite ways to strengthen my mindfulness muscle because it’s hopeful, non-threatening, and engaging. Not to mention as easy as can be! When we’re in a state of curiosity, we’re much more likely to pay attention to our surroundings and tune into our relationships with greater care and understanding.
There’s a great softening that takes place as we learn to approach our days as an unfinished puzzle rather than a detailed itinerary. Ask yourself each morning what the day might bring and allow yourself to be present for each of its answers.