Have Less Frazzle and More Fun This Holiday
Holidays. The annual, breathless whirl of go-go socializing, shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping — all building up to the gleeful spree of giving and receiving. It’s the time of year when we come together, and try to make special, memorable moments with the most cherished people in our lives.
For many of us, it’s the most important time of the year. Special outfits are bought. Pictures are taken. Gatherings are organized. Many of my coaching and counseling clients are paying huge amounts of money to fly to and from Denver through precarious weather, just to be together for those few days. We can feel a lot of pressure to make it special. I’ve certainly been hearing about the impact of this intensity in my recent life coaching sessions.
In trying to make our holidays memorable, we often wind up focusing on The Stuff of the holidays. And I’m not just talking about presents. I’m talking about all the other Stuff: Wreaths. Tinsel. Sequined sweaters. Lights. Trees. Cookies. Handmade ornaments. Homemade peanut brittle. Centerpieces. Food. Wrapping paper. You know: The Stuff.
It’s hard not to get excited about The Stuff when Pinterest-inspired visions of sugarplums are dancing in your head. And the fact is that having special holiday Stuff is part of what makes this time of year so memorable and festive. It feels happy to look at twinkly lights, listen to holiday music, and to decorate the tree with people you love.
But notice as I just called your attention to happy parts of the holidays, I was not talking about The Stuff itself, but the experiences you had with The Stuff.
And that’s the important part, and the true secret to having a happy holiday:
Focus on having happy experiences, not on The Stuff.
At the end of the day, no one remembers The Stuff. No one is going to remember the peanut brittle you’re killing yourself to make, nor will they think back about your awe-inspiring decor or feel grateful for how many hours you sat by yourself painstakingly hand-painting ornaments. The Stuff is only valuable if it’s an attractive background to happy experiences.
Here’s what really makes memories: Memories are seared into our brains through emotionally heightened experiences, and through novelty. So if you really want the legacy of your holiday efforts to be that of happy memories, put the glue gun down, abandon the idea that you’re going to make 36 hand painted tins in which to gift your brittle. Instead, start thinking about something genuinely fun you can do with your family that you will all enjoy — including you!
The details don’t matter. What matters is that you have a good time, and do something memorable together. So go ice skating. Have a snowball fight. Go caroling, or volunteer. The more energy you put into these activities, and the less you put into stuff, the more fun and less frazzling your holidays will be.
Tips to have genuinely happy experiences:
1) Smile. When you smile you will feel happier, and other people will feel happier. Lift up the corners of your mouth and whatever is happening will start to rise like bubbles in champagne.
2) Decide in advance that you’re going to have a good time. What will you need to be telling yourself in order to have fun? “Wow, this is great.” Decide in advance to feel grateful and appreciative of whatever experience you have, and then it shall be so.
3) Prioritize making other people feel happy and loved above all else. This will automatically make you feel happy too, if you are following rule #2 above: Decide how great it’s going to feel to bring joy to others. Give lots of hugs, tell people how terrific you think they are and smile at them a lot– no Stuff will make them feel any happier.
4) Do something different. Novelty adds interest and excitement to the most banal of experiences. So try doing something that you’ve never done before this year. Go to a hot springs, go somewhere on a train, try going down the sledding hill upside down and backwards. Go big or go small, but do something new.
5) Find ways to incorporate meaning in your holiday traditions through rituals. Mark the passing of time with letting kids make sloppy, crooked new ornaments every year. Take a new family photo every year in your shocking Christmas sweaters. Have a solstice ritual where everyone gets to say what they’re releasing into the darkness and what they’re embracing in the new light.
Be happy this holiday. Remember it’s not about The Stuff, it’s about having fun with people you love. So stop wrapping things and start wrapping people up in big hugs. You all deserve it.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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