The holidays bring up all kinds of mixed emotions. Although many of us love the seasonal rituals and family gatherings, some people loathe the commercialism and feel tortured by forced interactions with relatives. Here are three keys to thriving this holiday season, regardless of others.
1) Make Meaning, Not Just a Meal
This is the season where we come together to celebrate our 'harvest' and give thanks to the people in our lives that create our sense of community and participate with us in reciprocity. But often when this time of year rolls around, we find ourselves going through the motions of preparing food and giving gifts without feeling connected to the significance of our actions or the people with whom we celebrate. There are those who spend days cooking an enormous Thanksgiving feast, only to rush through the meal without ever truly connecting to the joy or purpose in the ritual. In my family, we prepare the meal together so that the process of cooking is a bonding experience. We also take time in between to meditate as a group so that we drop down beneath the external chaos and connect on a level of simply being and not only doing. Before or after we eat, we go on a walk because spending time in nature helps us feel strong in our bodies and not just stuffed in our tummies. When its time to eat, we don't just say grace, we go around and give each person an opportunity to share something he or she is grateful for. It gives the dinner a sense of greater value and makes everyone at the table feel more deeply related. Taking the time to reflect on our blessings gives meaning to the meal. It engages our hearts and not just our bellies.
2) Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
The holidays usually mean more stress for people with financial strain, family tension or those who struggle with the increase in social obligations to their already busy calendars. Therefore, choose your events wisely. Don't over commit yourself. You're not doing anybody a favor to show up someplace you don't want to be with a bad attitude. If you're going to go to an event, decide you want to be there, set an intention to have fun, and show up being open to connection. If you don't want to be there, don't go. Stay home not just for yourself, but for the others who will benefit from not having to be around your bad mood. You also don't have to spend more money than is comfortable. Nobody needs you to go into credit card debt over Black Friday sales. If you focus on giving gifts with emotional value, the price tag value becomes secondary. Besides, giving gifts shouldn't be about the stuff, it's about the act of gratitude. This year when giving someone a present, try to focus more on what you would say in the card then letting the gift do the talking.
3) Focus On What Unites Us Instead Of What Divides Us
There is nothing more uncomfortable than being at a party while two or more people get into a heated argument over politics or family drama. Happy holiday gatherings are simple. They are pleasurable when you focus on what you appreciate and they are miserable when you focus on what drives you nuts. We don't choose the families we are born into, but we do get to choose whether we allow ourselves to be miserable because of them. There is nobody but you who can control the temperature of your inner thermostat. Pick a climate that feels comfortable to you and commit to it. Decide before you see someone who makes you uncomfortable to focus on their positive aspects, then make an effort to be appreciative of those aspects. Appreciation doesn't just make someone else feel good. It makes you feel good. So the next time you are focusing on why you hate your father-in-law and his backwards ideas, stop yourself in the act and see if you can get in touch with the parts of you that have an affinity. Maybe he's wearing a nice tie you like. Maybe he made an excellent stuffing. Even if you can't think of one good reason this man is alive, at least he sired your partner. And that is reason enough to celebrate. Appreciation does not require another person. It requires you to be on board with noticing things that bring you pleasure. You might hate aunt Darby's politics but you can still dig her pretty necklace. Make the effort to find what feels good without needing to change what feels bad and see how quickly your experience of an event changes.