If you love to buy gifts for your family, hum carols while you shop, or get orgasmic planning tablescapes… This post is not for you.
I’m here to speak to the holiday curmudgeons, those of us who feel pressure throughout the season and end up mainlining chocolate to survive conversations with weird uncles and bitter sisters. I’m talking to those of us who often end up ten pounds heavier, hundreds of dollars poorer and generally mad at ourselves on January 1st. Why can’t we be more like the tinsel people?
It doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, we all respond to the holidays differently. And this year, with Christmas and Hanukkah taking place around the same time (Muslims, you’re off the hook after Thanksgiving), most of us will have to dust off our best coping mechanisms to make it from now until the New Year.
So let’s prepare intelligently: Here are your the ABCs of making the holiday season bearable… even pleasant!
A is for “Sit on your Ass”
From now until January, you must set a timer for five minutes and simply sit. Without distractions. This is your holiday mini-meditation practice — and it will pay huge dividends. It goes like this:
- Bring your attention to your breathing… just rest your awareness gently on your breath as it comes in and out your nostrils…
- When a thought invades, and it WILL, just let it… but as soon as you realize your mind has wandered, come back to your breath…
- ANOTHER thought will invade… and as soon as you realize it’s hijacked your brain… come back to your breath…
- Rinse and repeat until your timer goes off.
Yes, this practice is tedious and the furthest thing from exciting, but it will perform a holiday miracle: IT WILL SLOW DOWN YOUR BRAIN!
This is critical. A slowed-down brain allows you to settle into the moment and drop into your body. A slowed-down brain can release its own agenda for a second and really see the lights on the tree or the candles on the menorah, letting their sparkle actually penetrate. A slowed-down brain is less likely to reach for those macaroons, or at least it will stop after just two. A slowed-down brain doesn’t try to control the whole family or ratchet up resentments, and it even makes nice memories every once in awhile. You’ll see!
B is for “Be Grateful”
This is easy, simple and works real magic on the old curmudgeon brain. Cultivating gratitude releases feel-good neurotransmitters on demand. It’s amazing!
So, during the holidays, as soon as you wake up in the morning, list ten things you are grateful for (counting on your fingers). DO NOT list things you think you should be grateful for, like the holidays or the family being together. You must have a sincere gratitude list or your brain won’t shift gears.
It could look like this:
- This bed
- Sleeping in
- My sushi pajamas
- Having money to buy my sushi pajamas
- Not having to go to work today
- Central heating
- My smart phone
- My plane ticket home
- Gratitude lists (You’re feeling better now…)
When you make a truly sincere and honest gratitude list, your brain kicks into appreciation mode and it will be prone to appreciate more and more for the rest of the day. Repeat ten more gratitudes before falling asleep at night. They can be the same, different or a mixture of previous ones. It doesn’t matter; repeating things you’re grateful for still works as long as your brain gets high on them.
C is for “Cultivate Forgiveness”
The holidays shove us all into overheated rooms with lots and lots of people. And when people show up, our inner curmudgeon can come out. So if resentments or judgments start to mount, have a forgiveness plan to keep you sane and happy. Before going to bed, forgive five people (yourself included, if necessary), OUT LOUD. It goes like this:
- I forgive cousin Kay for having bad breath.
- I forgive myself for eating that chocolate thing.
- I forgive dad for being old and getting grumpy.
- I forgive my sister for being a control freak.
- I forgive myself for judging everyone.
By making these statements, you let go of your idea that you can actually control the world or that people should behave by some invisible set of rules you carry around inside. It makes room for reality and–if you’re doing your gratitude lists–more appreciation.
If you do all three of these things, you will emerge from the holiday vortex lighter (in all ways), happier and with fewer (or no) regrets. I can’t guarantee these tools will turn you into a tinsel person, but you will find that you experience this upcoming season in a whole new way.