Holiday Season Challenge: Be Intentional

Use the holiday season as a time to reflect and mindfully set intentions for the new year.

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By Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, Alison Jefferies, MEd, and Sophia Brauns

Right on schedule, the holiday season arrives and everything starts moving at full speed. It is times like these that the tempo of what is taking place challenges even the most centered of people to remain grounded. In order to remain grounded and connected, we must turn inward to our inner metronome to set our own pace.

This inner wisdom and awareness is present in nature. Bird migratory patterns provide a telling example. As the seasons change, the birds’ inner rhythm guides them to their next destination. It is not the external observation of fallen leaves or change in climate, but the inner awareness and the bodily clock that leads them to the right place. As with birds, when humans ignore their inner compass, they may not find themselves where they should be or where they want to be. They may find themselves caught up in a pace that is not their own, and in a state of unrest, distress, and even experiencing negative health consequences. 

Hippocrates, considered the ‘father of western medicine,’ stated “natural forces within us are the true healers….” These same internal forces can also make us more vulnerable to illness as there is now irrefutable evidence for the mind-body connection, suggesting that what we think and feel can impact our health for better or worse.

We know, for example, chronic stress negatively impacts most physiological and biological processes and can literally speed the aging process. With the advent of mind-body and stress-management research, we can be more hopeful that there are solutions. Effectively managing the stress of life, becoming more mindful, and living a life of purpose and connection leads to improved health, including optimal quality of life, brain and immune function, and even gene expression within our cells.

Often touted as “the most wonderful time of the year,” we would like to offer up a personal challenge to you this holiday season — work to maintain this internal connection to yourself, to your inner home, and your natural pace. Set your own intentions for becoming more mindful of the internal and external forces that influence your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and in turn — your health. Identify anything that pulls you away from home. Choose to find your way back.

Here are a few examples of intentions to foster this holiday season:

I will listen mindfully when others speak.
I will take a clarifying breath and focus on the moment.
I will get connected to my family and friends.
I will show love and empathy to those around me.
I will meditate at least 10 minutes every day.
I will foster mindfulness in all my actions, including the holiday meals I will enjoy.
I will be more proactive and less reactive.

Each of us must become attuned to our own natural rhythms in order to live calmly and harmoniously, fostering good balance for living well. Following our internal rhythm is what will lead us truly home for the holidays.

“… in the race of life… the winners are those who are superior not to others but to their former selves” — Robert K. Cooper

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Originally published at on February 21, 2015.

Originally published at

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