By Noreen Keesey
It’s the holiday season. Lights, music, gifts, family, fancy meals, and making memories. Did I forget to mention travel, and shopping, and cooking, and bills, and expectations? So many expectations. There are shoulds, musts, and have to’s all around, and quite a number of them come from within. It can all add up to quite a bit of pressure. With all of the busyness and stress that comes along with the holidays, how do you find joy?
One suggestion is to lower expectations. Spend some time thinking about what you really want during the holidays, and what about them brings you stress. Then change things up a bit to get more of what brings you joy and less of what decreases it. Maybe this means there is a gift or dollar limit set to keep your finances in check when the bills come due. Perhaps there are three cookie recipes made instead of seven, or you ditch the baking altogether and buy a platter from the local bakery. It might just be time to tell your family that you are having the holidays at home and will visit them over New Year’s, or host them in your home this year so that your little ones wake up in their own beds and you can decrease your time on the road.
It may not be best to toss all your traditions at once and start over, though if that appeals to you it might be worth a try! But if there is something you would like to let go, consider whether it can be left undone and see how you like the result. Communicate with your loved ones about what you’d like to change and why, and give them plenty of time so they are not left feeling hurt and confused. They may be very happy to have the conversation and share some ideas of what they would also like to see done differently.
Another idea is to focus on activities rather than things. Research shows that money spent on experiences is a good investment in our well-being. All too often, purchasing stuff leads to regret. That regret can show up when the bills arrive in a month or when the item purchased is left unused or unloved in just days or weeks. The investment in experiences pays off in the anticipation of the event, the event itself, and in the memories created that can be cherished long into the future. Check out plays, concerts, and local activities that you and your loved ones can participate in together.
For bringing joy to your everyday life, now and beyond the holidays, pay attention to the little things. Train yourself to notice all the wondrous things that occur around us. Look at the sunrise or sunset. Smile at someone and say hello. Tell your favorite joke and share a laugh with a colleague. Go to lunch with a friend you see infrequently. Find videos of babies laughing on the internet and play them twice. Do something nice for someone. It is said that what you focus on expands, so focus your attention carefully. Choose joy, and have yourself a very merry holiday season!
Noreen is a leadership coach and trainer who believes deeply in the Army leadership principle: “Know yourself and seek self-improvement.” She enjoys reading, watching movies, and laughing with friends over a good cocktail. She is uncomfortable with small talk and is scared of moths.