Searching for Holiday Happiness

5 Nov

To listen along click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8051113

I know talking about the holidays makes some people’s skin crawl. So many are dreading what’s to come, but they are coming whether we want them to or not. Thanksgiving in the US is a mere three weeks away. There will be challenges. We will all have them. Some easily rise to the challenge. Some whine through the challenge and some run from it. The irony is that if we whine or run from the challenge, nothing changes. We will be faced with the same type of challenge over and over until we figure it out. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We have this idea of the perfect holiday season, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize the perfection we imagine might be beyond our reach, and that sends us spiraling downward. None of us is without challenge, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace and joy and one of stress and angst.

Let me start by saying that I am a failure; at least I could look at it that way. Last month, I joined a creativity bootcamp with the idea of finishing and publishing a book about getting through the holidays. It was going to be a step by step guide to help those who need it. This is the second time I attempted to write this book, and I failed to finish it. Am I a failure? I’m sure some would say yes, but in truth, the vision for the book got bigger, so it has been postponed again. I actually have several ideas for books rolling around in my head and on several pieces of paper. I also have ideas for webinars, speaking engagements and future radio shows. Very often it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day because “real life” gets in the way, but real life is what I’ve chosen for now. I made a commitment to being a mom and with ADHD to deal with in my son and myself, some days it’s all I can handle, so for now, the book is on hold; perhaps next year.

If we’re willing to look, the greatest gifts, though, from the challenges we face show up as compassion and gratitude later on. We can look at what we’ve faced and then look at others in moments of challenge with grace. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down in the suffering and be at one with it. I would even suggest that commiserating with someone’s challenge only helps to keep them there. It provides no solution. Unfortunately, many would rather wallow in the challenge than look for the solution. They don’t want help. They want to justify their suffering. They aren’t ready to move on from their suffering to be joyful, and I think that’s sad, because when you focus on the suffering, you keep away the joy. That is the personification of misery loving company. I have felt the blues during the holidays. I have looked into the abyss, but I have learned from it. I have learned that I never want to pull anyone into that abyss with me but retreating can often make the spiral go deeper and longer than ever. We continue to ask what’s wrong with me. We tell ourselves that we should be grateful, but we focus on the problem when the most important question to ask is what you can do to get out of the dark place. The holiday blues are not inevitable or maybe they are, but they can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season. In hopes of helping those who would like it, I have created a list of ten things to improve your mood before you slide into the abyss this holiday season. There are many more, but this is definitely a start:

1. Take care of yourself. Take a shower. Dress in nice clothes even if you have nowhere to go. Paint your nails or put on makeup if that helps you feel better. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. These are simple things that can start to bring you out of a funk.

2. Meditate. It has been said that when you pray, you speak to the Divine. When you meditate, the Divine speaks to you. If you’re new to meditation, I would suggest finding a guided meditation on YouTube. Meditation changed my life and it can change yours too.

3. Breathe and become aware of your body. As you breathe, consciously relax your forehead, your shoulders, your spine and your stomach. Releasing tension like this is incredibly calming and can help you slide right into the meditation experience mentioned above.

4. Listen to music that brings you joy. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like and look for the soundtrack. It can be especially fun if the movies are from your childhood.

5. Do something for someone else. Rake your neighbor’s leaves when they’re at work. Bake cupcakes for the neighborhood kids. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you have a sick friend. Send a gift card to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. I could do an entire blog post just on random acts of kindness, and I assure you, when you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you receive as much as you give.

6. Open yourself to receiving. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it is wearing us out and killing us. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? Think of it this way, why are you the only person that should be allowed into Heaven? If you don’t give others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming their best selves. Nothing is sadder to me than a person who says they don’t want to burden their friends with their problems. What the heck are friends for? They are there to lift you out of the muck and to deny them that hurts both of you. Stop it! Be willing to be vulnerable and sad and frustrated so others know they are not alone and so both of you can find out that people care. They really, really care. This concept changed so much for me. Start with a compliment. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate the compliment. If someone compliments you on how you look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one of your own. If someone compliments your talent, say thank you and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t talk about all of the flaws or mistakes you see. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful for the compliment. People like to make others feel good. Let them!

7. Indulge in a healthy guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Give yourself a short time out to do something that brings you joy. Some days you may have to do several little things. Some days it may be one big thing, but find joy in every day. If you are a parent of young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because I was given the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of just holding that moment of peace. If you’re children are away at college like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them. If you don’t have children, pull out an old photo album and look through your own wonderful memories. The possibilities of finding precious moments in your past are endless.

8. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This quote by Gandhi has been running through my mind for the past several months, and I think it is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. I think this goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy because you are being the change instead. Right now, I want more love, peace and kindness in the world, which is plenty to keep me busy for now.

9. Stop being offended and stop taking things personally. This is one I am still working on. Yesterday someone wrote something on Facebook that offended me. Imagine that. It was a response to something I said, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a veiled insult to the kind of person I am. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. I believe we are born filled with love and must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other thing people seem to think about me because I am positive and happy is that I have no problems. Honestly, this is where I started today’s post/ radio show idea, and why I decided to write this list.

10. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act the way you do or think the way you do? If not, be the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. It’s interesting to think that your mountains might be someone else’s molehills. Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They may have been the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed. Take the focus off of what you think you need to do and put the focus on who you want to be and the way you want the season to feel. You will approach everything differently. You will clean up your home to have a peaceful space. You will buy gifts to bless others instead of just checking names off of a list. I hope it will help you find peace, joy, love and grace every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but it isn’t about them. It’s about you having your best season ever. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next eight weeks, but for the rest of your life.
Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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