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. People 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 been certainly hearing about the impact of this intensity in my recent life coaching sessions.
In trying to make our holiday 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 festive. It feels happy to look at twinkly lights, and to listen to holiday music, and decorate the tree together 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. It’s only value of The Stuff is as 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.
Your Efforts Matter More Than You May Ever Know.
My friend Ambra has been struggling. She’s a Denver psychologist who works with severely traumatized children and their families. Every day, she is fighting against an ocean of pain and darkness to save the lives of children. It’s like she’s in a life-raft of support and compassion, and straining to haul dozens of drowning, desperate kids on board. She knows that if she gets them in to the boat, they will have a better future. But the boat is leaky, she is only one person, and she can’t save them all. She agonizes over the ones she watches slip under: The ones that seem broken beyond repair, or who are trapped in toxic inter-generational systems of depravity that are too strong for her to break. Some days she doubts herself. Lately she feels like she’s loosing the battle.
I think of Ambra as I look at the photo on my kitchen counter, the one propped up beside a small painting that I recently bought at a fundraiser. It’s of a proud young woman, Gayla, holding up the painting that I now own. She’s a disabled orphan who lives in a group home in Armenia. Her painting has rosy pinks and blues glowing in a mystical tree of life on a summer’s day. It’s beautiful. I plan to hang it in my second child’s room, should I ever be so lucky to have another.
The only reason that this painting exists is because someone working in an Armenian orphanage cared enough to try and start a group home for disabled, orphaned adults to move in to after they aged out of the state orphanage. Their efforts rescued Gayla from the dirty, cold psychiatric hospital that would have been her only other option, and gave her a home. They raised donations from kind strangers to have an art teacher come in to teach weaving and painting, and buy her art supplies.
Now Gayla gets to sit by a sunny window, in a big house with a tree outside. She is with people who love her. She has a teddy bear on her bed, in a room she shares with her friends. She is happy because of the love that surrounds her. Her happiness rippled out through her heart to her hands to the paper, to me. It makes me feel happy to think about the possibility that a baby — my baby — might someday gaze up from a crib and absorb the beautiful message of love that came straight from Gayla’s heart. It brings me hope.
The efforts of all the volunteers who helped Gayla have rippled out far beyond their original intention. They are now touching my life in a way that they probably never even considered. The truth is that everything we do rings an energetic bell that reverberates into the lives of others, even though we may not understand how. Our efforts matter.
For every child that Ambra has lost, swirled away into the darkness, she’s lifted countless others into her boat without even realizing it. Just the fact that she cares enough to try matters. Her presence in young lives allows them to experience small moments of love and goodness that shift something inside of them. Simple time in a safe space with a kind person becomes a soft tone that counters the harsh ringing of abuse that has been echoing in their families for generations. I believe that she is starting a new vibration in psyches that will reverberate and expand into subtle positive changes throughout their life, and which may ripple out into the lives of their eventual children, and their children’s children.
Long after Ambra’s time in this world has ended babies will be born with more peace and stability in their lives because of her efforts today, even though she feels like she is failing in the present. She matters, even if she doesn’t always feel like it.
And so it is with you. Even though you may never witness the fruit of the seeds that you plant today doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Everything you do that is loving, generous, and helpful ripples out into the world, touching other people and making it a better place. The simple act of attempting to be decent, matters. Every time you practice patience, compassion, and love, it rings like a bell and spreads out to people that you may never meet, but who benefit from your kindness in mysterious and unexpected ways that you may never know.
Every moment is an opportunity to be fair, kind, and merciful. Every day is a new chance for you to be a dynamic center of love that touches other people. The world is already a better place because of your efforts. The world is a better place because you are in it.
With love and gratitude,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
P.S. If you are interested, you can learn more about The Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR) at http://www.soar-us.org/
P.P.S. You can learn more about the practice of Dr. Ambra Born, the best damn child psychologist in Northern Colorado, at www.reachinghope.org
How to Feel Happy Again
Feeling happy is what it’s all about. But sometimes, it can be hard to muster up good feelings. On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m sharing some simple tips that you can start using today to help you feel happier and more satisfied with your life — as is.
#Mindfulness #Gratitude #Happiness
How to Feel Happier, Today: Listen Now