As the holiday season approaches, I think we can all agree that it’s been a rough year. President Trump appears determined to destroy everything we hold dear and it seems like every other day, another few names are added to the growing list of celebrity sex offenders.
The environment is in critical shape and people are more disconnected than ever, leading to blatant and awful examples of rude and selfish behavior. Happy holidays, indeed!
So here we are, nearing the end of 2017 and for some of us, the winter blues have already begun. We’re feeling listless and uninspired. The news is bad and we fear that it might be getting worse. How do we make it through the holidays and even more importantly, how do we move forward into 2018 in the best possible frame of mind?
I think that there are a few things we can do to make the holidays brighter and the new year better. It all starts with being more mindful.
So much of the time, we’re running around in a state of agitation and distractedness. We lose our keys, forget to lock the front door, bang our head on an open cabinet, go on auto-pilot while driving and miss our turn-off. We walk right past people without really seeing them and miss out on the possibility of a connection.
Being more mindful means slowing down and breathing. It means being present in each moment of your life. If you’re driving, you’re paying attention to the road and alert for any potential accidents or detours.
If you’re getting ready for work, you’re going slow and paying attention to what you’re doing. While at work, you focus on one task at a time to reduce the potential for mistakes.
When you’re out and about, you notice the people around you. You take in who’s nice and who’s nasty. In this way, you see who you need to stay away from and who’s a potential friend, ally or love interest.
The holidays, especially, can up our stress levels. We feel our loneliness more acutely, and any family problems we have are magnified. Financial difficulties loom larger and we tend to take stock of our lives with a more critical eye as New Year’s eve approaches.
The holidays are a time when we can get caught up in over-indulging with the intention to self-soothe. There’s such an abundance of tasty food and tempting drink wherever we turn that it’s easy to have that third or fourth helping of stuffing or that fifth or sixth drink.
We rationalize our behavior by saying, “It’s the holidays!” but there’s a significant difference between celebrating and getting caught up in addiction.
Being mindful of your feelings can help with all of this. If you’re lonely, it’s a good time to volunteer at a local food bank or soup kitchen. Doing for others is a great way to feel more connected and less alone. Plus, you’re likely to meet some kind, caring people among the other volunteers.
If your family is super-dysfunctional, you can be mindful of that fact and instead of operating out of blind duty or unconscious obligation, you can consider your options. Maybe it’s time to have a serious talk with your difficult sibling, or maybe it’s time to plan a holiday down south.
If your finances are in rough shape, being mindful of the reality of your situation can help you make better choices around how much to spend over the holidays. Instead of pushing your credit cards over their limits, you can negotiate a gift-free holiday season this year. Or a secret Santa with a $10 or $20 maximum, or everyone making home-made gifts this year.
If the stress of the holidays is making you feel anxious or depressed, you can choose to make an appointment with a therapist, rather than stuffing down your feelings with food or drink or spending more than you have, trying to cheer yourself up.
If your life isn’t where you’d like it to be right now, being mindful can help you silence the inner critic that would only make you feel worse. Instead, you can look at what goals you’d like to accomplish in the new year and begin to carve out a path in that direction.
If you’re being more mindful of your feelings, you’ll realize if there’s someone in your life that you’d like to get to know better, and it can help motivate you to pursue a relationship with this person.
Also, if you’re more mindful, you’ll be able to see if there’s someone in your life who’s toxic to you, which can help you take steps to cut this person out of your life.
Finally, if you’re feeling bad about the state of the world, and in particular, the political climate of the US and the rampant rate of sexual harassment and assault in our society, there are things that you can do, right now.
Engage in the political system by casting your vote and having an impact. Join in with the protests against workplace sexual harassment and speak out about any incidents of abuse that you notice.
If you’re mindful, you’ll be more aware of all the anger, hatred, selfishness and greed out there, but this will also give you the opportunity to address these things. Mostly, you can choose to give more love.
Mindfulness means being fully present, alive and engaged. It means having all your resources available to you. When you’re more “here,” you can open your heart more to those around you.
The holidays are ultimately about love. Being more mindful will enable you to access all the love of the season, and all the love available to you, year-round.
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