Saturday, December 1, 2007

What If Your Holidays Aren't What You Want?

So often people end up feeling that the Holidays are not what they wish they were. We wish for the return of past traditions, for better relationships with family and friends, or that we could somehow spend the holiday differently. It is easy to look at all of the idealized images in stores, books, magazines, and on television and to think our lives should be more like what we see there.
We all know that we can't go back, that we only control our side of relationships, and that we can't be everywhere at once. We also know that the media view of the holidays just isn't real. No one's house really looks like that, and certainly no one's friends and family ever really behave that way. Nevertheless, we can end up feeling let down or disappointed.
One of the best ways that any of us can get out of this rut is to start practicing Mindfulness, which means staying focused on what we are experiencing in the moment rather than what might be or what should be. Anyone can take a few moments out of their day to try some of these things. You don't have to be particularly wise, lucky, happy, or anything else. All you have to do is stop and try.
Here are some examples:

You're trying to get your decorations up and know you don't have time to get it the way you want it. You are starting to feel cranky and you snap at one of the kids. Then you feel bad because, after all, it is the Holidays.

  • What about stopping, taking a deep breath, and saying to yourself, "If it's not worth enjoying, it's probably not worth doing. This should be fun." Then ask the children what decorations they like the most and would like to help you with. Answer the question for yourself as well. Then while you're working with your children on everyone's favorites, think about the fun you all are having in the moment and know that in reality, this is what's most important.

You've realized that you are not going to be able to spend the holiday where you would most like to be. You decide you hate the season and wish it were over.

  • You can remind yourself that no matter what you do, if you think about paying attention to the present, you can find pleasure in various moments during the day. Where will you be? What about those people or that place do you enjoy or appreciate? Can you add some things to your day that will increase your enjoyment? Can you give yourself cues to stop and enjoy the moment a few times during the day?

There is no rule saying that you can't spend your holidays wishing for something that either doesn't exist or is out of reach for you at the moment. Just know that if you want to try something different, you can always just stop, take a breath and ask yourself "What's happening right now in this moment?"

Peace of the season to you all.