By: Tracy L. Skaer, PharmD, Professor of Pharmacotherapy

While there is often much joy surrounding family gatherings during the holiday season, some may experience increased tension. Practice these mindful techniques to help you increase empathy, reduce stress, improve relationship satisfaction, and better enjoy your holiday moments.

  1. Use active listening. Allow the conversation of the moment to take center stage. Be mindful of the message that is being conveyed not just in the words spoken, but the actions taken and the body language expressed. Minimize distractions in order to be more attentive. Put away your smartphone, tablet, turn off the TV, and turn down the music. Be polite, don’t interrupt, nod, smile, and respond directly to what was said.
  2. Let go of judgment. Leave the blame, disappointment, and criticism of yourself and others at the door. Simply notice when you are making judgments, focus on your breath for a moment, and let those thoughts pass by without entangling yourself in them.
  3. Empathize with the emotions of others. Increase your ability to connect with others by being attentive and open. Be mindful of the feelings that are being expressed by others and receptive to communication.
  4. Accept the range of emotions in yourself. Holidays are often reminders of missed loved ones who are absent which can bring on feelings of grief, loss, or loneliness. Find yourself some space and acknowledge these difficult emotions when they arrive rather than hiding them deep inside or trying to get rid of them.
  5. Let go of old habits that perpetuate negativity. Rather than becoming annoyed by a familiar pattern, notice and focus on the thoughts and feelings of others and within yourself at the present moment. Be open to creating a new experience and finding the fun rather than frustration.
  6. Practice self-compassion. Be good to and take care of yourself. Engage in relaxing and fun activities, exercise, and make sure you get regular sleep. This will make it easier for you to keep the holiday spirit.


“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle