Growing up, I loved the holiday season. It was a time of good cheer and connection with loved ones. But as I grew older, the holidays began to feel more like a dreadful obligation. I felt like a Grinch — I’d sigh whenever someone would remind me that the holiday season was almost here.
I had to look inward to see how I could turn this negative mindset around. I uncovered that in addition to the overwhelm of it being such a busy time, some of my apathy had to do with my sister splitting time with her husband, and my fathers passing away a few years back. I truly felt like all meaning was lost. Upon discussing this with my mother, I realized that it was up to me to shift my perspective and put the meaning back into the holidays. I had to take action in order to bring back the magic of the season.
Here are seven steps to a more meaningful holiday season:
Instead of thinking, “I have to go to this party, I have to get this gift, I have to decorate my tree,” shift it to “Iget to go to this party because I have amazing friends who want me around. I get to decorate this tree because it brings joy to my loved ones and me. I get to give this gift because I have loved ones in my life.” Take on the attitude of abundance, gratefulness, and opportunity.
2. Goals and Intentions
Go into the season with clarity of intent. When we set realistic goals, we set ourselves up for success. My intention this year is to make the holiday more meaningful in whatever ways that resonate deeply with me. A few other ideas: spend more time with family, volunteer, or host an open house to celebrate with friends. Don’t feel obligated to do any of these things — it might be best to relax and take care of yourself during the holidays.
Spend some time reflecting on holidays past. What are some of your best memories as a child? What are your favorite memories in adulthood? What made these moments so special to you? For me, as kids my parents would load us into the car and play our favorite Christmas tapes. We would drive around ‘oohing ‘and ‘ahhing’ at the colorful lights and yard decorations. So this year, I told my family we are going to load up and go look at Christmas lights. Not only is it an adventure filled with nostalgic, childlike wonder, but it’s quality time with loved ones that cannot be replaced.
Do you have traditions? What traditions can you create? One of my friends has a tree trimming party every year. Not only does it help him get his tree done, but it’s also a great way to spend time with friends. He requests that each friend brings an ornament to put on the tree. Now each ornament represents a unique friend — each ornament holds a story and will remind him of someone he cares deeply about. Another friend told me his family puts on a “decorate the gingerbread house” contest. Everyone brings different ingredient and materials, then they are split into teams and have one hour to decorate. At the end of that hour, the neighbors would come over to judge and award the winning team.
5. Be the Light
I have a mantra that I try to live by and ask myself each day: Where can I bring light? Where can I bring love? It’s an attitude I try to embody year round, but it can definitely bring about added spirit to the holiday season. Start small: say hello to a stranger, hold the door more often, say thank you to service providers. Even a simple smile can improve someone’s day, so be conscious of the energy you bring.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Even with a holiday reframe, all of the activities of the season can still be draining. It’s important that we take care of ourselves — that we don’t say yes to everything. We should make sure that we take time for our spiritual practices of mindfulness, prayer, and meditation. It’s important to be conscious of what we put into our bodies, and to eliminate stress through exercise and restful sleep.
7. Be Present
When we’re stressed, we are most likely caught up thoughts about the past or the future. The simple practice of mindfulness can bring us back to the present moment and allow these worries or fears to pass by. By taking a few deep breaths and shifting our awareness to the present experience, we are able to fully engage with the magic of the moment and appreciate joyful experiences as they arise. What do you see, smell, hear, taste, and touch? Noticing these things will allow us to feel calm and eradicate thoughts that do not serve us.
Let’s be conscious of the attitude and the energy that we bring as we embark on another holiday season. As we start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, we can merely shift our thoughts back to the true intent of the holidays. We can focus on sharing in the connection, the magic, and the joy that exists once we seek it.