Celebrating 2023, Planning for 2024, and Being Present in the Moment

December is always a busy year with wrapping up academic and extracurricular commitments, preparing for the holiday season, and anticipating what’s to come in the new year! Sometimes, I feel like this year just flies by way too fast and I don’t have a chance to really process the year that is passing, or plan for what is ahead. But most of all- sometimes when we are trying to squeeze everything in… we miss what is most important… and that is what is right in front of us!

Mindfulness is present moment awareness, or ‘being in the NOW’. When we focus on what is in front of us fully, we are practicing mindfulness!

Present Moment Awareness/ Mindfulness Ideas

This can be an activity like colouring, practicing mindful eating (engaging all senses while slowly eating your food), or going on a quiet nature walk and noticing the world around you. My favourite mindfulness suggestion actually comes from my cousin- roller skating! You have to be fully focused on the path ahead and your coordination… a wonderful way to relax, focus your mind on enjoying the task at hand, and be fully present in your physical body too. Any activity that gets you moving or engaged is brilliant.

For our December blog, I wanted to share some ways that you can begin to engage children in mindfulness practices around the holidays that will provide you with meaningful opportunities to connect.

When we talk about mindfulness and incorporating this practice into our classrooms and homes, sometimes it can feel a bit daunting- after all, being fully present 24/7 would require a lot of attention and energy! It is important to acknowledge that looking back on the past and anticipating or thinking about the future are very important to our survival, growth and development as humans. But- as with all good things, we need a bit of balance.

Spending too much time ruminating in the past can be associated with depression, and being anxious or worried about what is to come in the future can be associated with anxiety. We need all three forms of engaging our mind to help us lead full and healthy lives!

Let’s start with looking back…

Memory Salad Bowl Activity

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful year that 2023 was! As a fun family celebration, have each member of your family write their top 3 moments or memories from 2023 on pieces of paper. Little ones might need a little bit of help getting their thoughts down.

Fold up the individual pieces of paper and put them into a big salad bowl. Set up a fun evening with yummy snacks, fun music, and any other things that your family enjoys. Sit down together and take turns closing your eyes, choosing a piece of paper, and reading it out loud to the rest of the family. Each memory shared can be ‘guessed’ as to who wrote it. Spend some time remembering the great moments you celebrated individually AND as a family throughout the year!

Some other questions you could potentially use could be:

  • What is a challenge you overcame in 2023?
  • What are some ways in which you saw members of your family grow in 2023?
  • What was your favourite memory of time we spent together in 2023?
  • What are you most proud of in 2023?
  • What is something you learned in 2023?

Now looking to the future…

As we wrap up the year behind us, it can be a popular tradition for adults to set goals for the new year. What pops into my mind are always goals involving fitness, personal development, or professional endeavours.

GOALS are super important because they help us establish tangible milestones that we can work towards and celebrate upon achievement. They give us a sense of accomplishment and often are big moments that we put a lot of work into achieving.

Some examples of goals could be:

  1. My goal is to make my school volleyball team this year
  2. My goal is to get an A grade or higher in my chemistry class
  3. My goal is to read 10 books this year

What can also be helpful and equally important are INTENTIONS. Intentions give us a focus that we want to keep in mind, but aren’t necessarily ‘achievable’/ have a finish line or end point indicator.

Some examples of intentions could be:

  1. My intention for 2024 is to contribute to my community. I can do this through things like volunteering, smiling at a stranger, or helping a friend in need.
  2. My intention for the new year is to have a growth mindset- things may not always work out the way I want them to, but I will always look for the learning in every experience and put my best effort forward.
  3. My intention for 2024 is to spend more quality time with family. We can do this by planning activities and putting our phones away when we eat dinner together.

Family Time Capsule Activity

Give every person in your family two pieces of paper each (if you have younger children, you can have an adult write down the ideas for everyone and then have children draw a picture beside their contribution to feel included!)

Brainstorm your goals as a family for 2024. Try to list 1-2 ideas. A goal should be specific, timebound, and achievable! What would success look like if you achieved this goal? This brings the family together to set some things to work towards

Ex. Our goal is to book a family vacation to Mexico by November 1st 2024. Success would look like going to Mexico in December 2024.

Now, brainstorm your individual goals. Try to aim for 3-5 ideas. Let each person reflect on their goals or take time to think about it. Ask encouraging questions to inspire your children to reflect and share instead of telling them what you think their goals should be. Show them that you see they are capable and individually able to work towards things they are proud of or want to achieve. There should be no judgement towards each others goals. Respect and ensuring that every person is heard and acknowledged is key!

Repeat the activity with intentions (intentions as a family, and intentions for each individual).

Once you have finished, put the paper in a tin or sealed container and hide it away somewhere! You can even wrap it up as a present to open together the follow new years so that when the year is over, you can check to see if you were able to accomplish your goals and practice your intentions. If you live somewhere that isn’t covered in snow, it might be fun to bury your time capsule in the backyard! Set a reminder somewhere to revisit your family time capsule in a few months or in a year to see how you are doing.

It can be really fun to keep your goals and intentions handy too- or put a copy up on your fridge/ by the front door to remind yourselves of what you are working towards throughout the year.