We are in that special season when we all start to think about being thankful, celebrating, and setting goals for the next year. It can be a great time, but too often we find ourselves somewhere else. We end up frazzled, distracted, and exhausted. Or maybe we regret the things that didn’t happen in our lives during the year. Add in the extended families, shopping, and pressure to be blissfully happy, and it can be a recipe for discouragement.
If you find yourself looking around and wondering where the joy went in your life this holiday season, you’re not alone. Here are four ideas to help you get back to loving the life you have, today and every day
Eliminate “I have to”
There is almost nothing we have to do. The things we do are choices. Feeling trapped by all the have to’s of the holiday season is one sure way to miss out on joy.
Let’s think about the office holiday party you’re dreading, for example. Your probably thinking you have to go, but is that true? What would happen if you didn’t? There might be consequences at your job – you might lose favor, or not been seen as a team player. But you could still choose to skip it. If you choose to go instead, remind yourself why you are making that choice. Because you are committed to your job. Because you want to be a team player. Doing so will feel much better than spending days complaining.
Accept responsibility for your life and the choices you are making. I know this is a tough pill to swallow. But if you do it, you will feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat. From there, you will be open to feeling more joy and peace going forward.
I’ll admit that I was a gratitude drop out for a number of years. I’ve written before about how I often experienced guilt creeping in to my gratitude practice, but I also found the practice overall to be flat. IT felt like an obligation rather than something that was improving my life. What I have figured out, however, was that I was doing it all wrong.
After reading Gratitude Works by Robert Emmons, I decided to give gratitude another try and switch up my practices a bit. Rather than writing a simple list of five things I’m thankful for every day, I now take about five minutes four or five times a week to really celebrate something for which I’m grateful. My journal entries now reflect not only my blessings, but their impact on my life. They reflect how my youngest son encourages me to step outside myself and live my life on my own terms, regardless of what other people think. How a beautiful sunrise gives me hope. There is a depth of meaning that was missing before.
I’ve been practicing gratitude this way for about two months now and I’ve seen a dramatic shift. So, if you’ve never gotten any traction with your own gratitude practices, try going a little deeper. Get specific, think of why you are grateful for your blessings, take the time to write it down, and see what happens.
Make time for one thing that brings you joy
I know. We are all busy, and my telling you to make time may feel like one more way you don’t measure up. But hear me out. I’m not talking about thirty minutes, or even fifteen. I’m saying find five minutes each day and do something just for you. Something simple.
Light a favorite candle.
Drink a favorite cup of tea.
Listen to your favorite song.
Sit in the sun.
What it is doesn’t matter, and how long it takes doesn’t matter. What matters is that you spend your time really enjoying what you’re doing.
Building a joyful life is about making a series of small steps in the right direction. Start today by doing one small thing joyfully.
There’s a lot to do this time of year, and all that rushing around can leave us in a frenzied, hassled daze. To really experience the best in your life, however, you need regain your focus. Otherwise, no matter what you are doing, you will feel pulled away (or apart).
So, stop multi-tasking. Yes, right now.
Your brain cannot focus on more than one thing at a time effectively. In fact, science has shown that what we call multi-tasking actually involves a quick series of shifting back and forth between two (or more) tasks. So, that feeling of being pulled in a thousand different directions may not be your imagination after all.
Instead of multi-tasking, try instead to do one thing at a time. Really think about what you are doing. The feel of it. The sounds. The reasons for it. Then move to the next item on the list and approach it the same way. Allowing your brain to rest and focus on the task at hand can feel more luxurious than you might imagine.
The holidays can be a time of peace and joy. I hope they will be for you this year, and that these four ideas help you get there.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. If you have a trusted method for keeping calm in the midst of holiday chaos, please share it.