How to GENUINELY feel happiness at Christmas
Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
This holiday season is one of the most anticipated times of the year. Yet, for some of us, there is a great deal of tension, sometimes loneliness, and often a vague sadness that permeate the days.
For many of us the reality falls short of the hallmark perfection presented to us through relentless full on and subliminal marketing. We can often find ourselves vaguely unhappy, stressed, anxious, lonely, despairing, discouraged, or suffering from a bad case of the Christmas blues.
This is not inevitable, though. With a little planning and intentionality the Christmas season might provide a lot more joy than you imagine. Even if your circumstances aren’t ideal, there are particular steps you can take to enjoy a brighter, more meaningful Christmas this year.
I invite you to take some time to consider the twelve gifts of Christmas below. Which ones speak to you in a particular way this Christmas? Allow these to become your focus, and you will have your pathway to deep peace and joy this Christmas, whatever your circumstances.
The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – moving you way from disappointment and towards deep peace and joy this Christmas.
1. Identify your focus for this holiday.
From food and decoration to presents and parties, December is full of opportunity. But there is a very fine line between opportunity and distraction. Decide now what is your main focus this Christmas, what you want the season to represent. Maybe for you it is the traditional religious celebration, or quality time with family and friends, or deep rest. Decide what it is for you and then let this focus be the prism through which you plan all of your Christmas.
Whatever you say yes to then it will be in line with your main thing. This will bring you peace.
2. Slow down.
Peace is rarely found in adding commitments and lengthening your to do list. So drop some tasks and ‘should do’s’ —on purpose. Intentionally shift the balance to include times of ‘being’ as well as ‘doing’ each day
3. Practise letting go of perfection.
Things will get messy, some plans will not work out, you may not be able to deliver all that you would like to. People get frazzled, communication gets misunderstood, Covid interrupts our plans, houses get messy. This is life, we are not a failure, nothing has gone wrong, it is just that perfection is simply not possible. So practise letting perfection go and embrace the unfinished to do list, the mess, the imperfect cooking, the interrupted plans as just part of life – no need to take it personally.
4. Don’t expect others to share your vision.
We all have different expectations of how Christmas should be. Usually our vision is rooted in childhood memories. Mine will be very different than yours … so don’t assume everyone expects Christmas to look the same as you do. Practise curiosity about others expectations and vision of Christmas. What a great way to unwrap the gift of difference this Christmas.
5. Make space for deep rest.
Take that nap, go to bed early, or sleep in later than normal at least sometimes. In the natural world this is the time for going within, for deep rest, for hibernating. Our often frantic Christmas activities need to be counteracted with times of deep rest so we too will have our Spring, our time of new energy and growth. So plan to take some extra rest throughout the Christmas days.
6. Consider the power of forgiveness.
Old hurts surface and new wounds can overtake us during the Christmas break. Wounds can fester, or we can accept that part of being human is to wound and to be wounded. At least in your heart forgive and set yourself free. Or maybe consider forgiving quickly this Christmas any who offend or hurt you – lightening your own load for the year ahead.
We know that when we smile ( even if we do not feel like it) our brain gets a message that everything is ok and the body relaxes with the release of helpful hormones like oxitocin. So remember to smile and experience the benefits for yourself as you share them with others through the simple gift of the infectious smile.
8. Realise the meaning is in the giving, not the gift.
You won’t get everything you want this Christmas and conversely, you will get some gifts that you have no need or desire for. Think less about the gift and more emphasis on the fact that somebody thought you were special this holiday season. The gift is not the gift. The real gift is the giving… and the giver. Spend time noticing this, letting it in, and treasuring the real gift of people in your life who care about you.
9. Go outside.
We know now the healing power of spending time in green/blue natural spaces. If you do not habitually spend time outside, make this the season you do.
10. Know when to stop.
From over-eating to over-drinking, knowing when to stop can take a back seat during what has become the season of over indulgence during the Christmas break. The greatest gift of mindfulness is learning to self regulate. Amazingly learning to self regulate in this way is a great route to inner peace and happiness. So maybe for you this Christmas is your time to embrace moderation.
11. Notice your body.
Often we really neglect our body. We might dress it up, present it nicely to the world but we can also care for the body in a whole other way. We can take time to notice what the body would like- a drink, a yawn, some gentle movement or stretching, a brisk shower or a long bath. Practise this gentle art of listening to the body, an so coming home to yourself and your own inner peace and calm.
12. Embrace spirituality.
Whether you have a particular faith tradition or none Christmas is a wonderful time to connect with meaning making, to explore what is really important to us, the hidden threads that help s to make sense of and connect to the wonder of life itself. Perhaps this year you might in a particular way give time to notice love, hope, forgiveness, and grace. Rather than losing yourself in the hustle and bustle, find intentionality in remembering the heart of Christmas and celebrating the soul of everything good. Develop a ritual for this season that helps you to connect with these often hidden golden threads of meaning.
And from my heart to yours, may your holidays this season be truly peaceful and happy.
A Christmas Childhood
by Patrick Kavanagh
One side of the potato-pits was white with frost
–How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable.
An apple treeWith its December-glinting fruit we saw –
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it!
Now and then I can remember something of the gay Garden that was childhood’s.
The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.
My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was overCassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.
And old man passing said:‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodion.’ I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodion,My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.
From Collected Poems (2004).