Thinking and writing about feeling loved for who I am was a really helpful and powerful reminder this week. A reminder that sometimes we don’t have to go far or work hard to shift towards a mood that feels lighter and happier. Here are 6 holiday tips to make the season more fun, sprinkle your days with more ease, or to simply help appreciate that it’s okay to be wherever and however – or whoever – you are. It’s a post with holiday tips and a few links I’ve been looking forward to sharing with you.
1. Soak it up a little
If you’re not feeling the joy or the meaning of Christmas or the good feelings we so want to have more of during this time of year – think of a favorite story or experience that made you feel good. It could be an event, something you did with another person or beloved pet. It could be a movie or book. Or something even simpler – like a favorite sweater, the way a cup of hot-something warms up your hands, the sight of snow flakes from your window, …
Think of a moment or experience that makes you feel a little more calm, safe, cared for, or special. It might have really happened. It might have only been for a moment. Or maybe it’s something from your imagination.
Now bring it to life.
Let yourself reminisce or daydream about the little details. Where it took place. The time of day. The temperature or season. What was happening that felt good. Who you were with or what you were doing. Smells, colors, sounds …
Notice the sensations that arise, right now in the present moment. It could be a softening in your chest, a little crinkle of smile behind your eyes, a letting go of tension in your belly, a hint of warmth on your skin …
There is no right or wrong – just an allowing with this little exercise.
Give yourself at least 5 minutes to be with this process. A half hour isn’t too much. And let it fill you and come into being.
That’s it. Savor and keep on with your day.
Let yourself recall it once in a while when you need a little help to shift out of something, to feel a little lighter or to find more ease.
2. Listen to your Heart
This is always a biggie – whether as a part of holiday tips or for other times in your life. Make time to listen to what your heart is whispering this season.
I bought a beautiful Christmas wreath for our front door last week and liked the idea of being able to reuse it in future years. But on my little wreath-hunting trip I’d also found an Alter sElf putting other things into my basket. Things like …. wire … tape … string … During the week I couldn’t get the beautiful pine cones I’d seen at our local nursery out of my head ….
And I happened to have the nicest red bow in my stash of things from last year’s Christmas wreath ….
I kept feeling a subtle longing to make my own decoration.
When I finally really got that this was something I wanted, I returned the wreath. And had the most fun of any recent purchase when I spent $5.00 on two pine cones and made a swag instead. (While looking up the term “swag,” since I’ve never used it before, I went to Pinterest and searched for holiday door and “branch” decorations. It got me started on a whole new board just for “play!“).
Blogger Lottie Ryan, who lives with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), sets an intention to listen for what she really wants for the holidays too. I loved her story and how it lead to a change of plans last year. And I just re-re read Steal Like an Artist’s post about the importance of listening because it’s another example of this important “technology” we carry right inside ourselves.
My new creation is reminiscent of my Dad’s favorite thing to make every Christmas for their front door.
Oh what fun it was to goof off and be subversively creative (or so it seemed).
A resource is anything that floats your boat and makes you feel better. Or helps you shift gears, such as out from feelings of despair or hopelessness. Or gives you more capacity to go with the flow or ride the waves that you can’t change. It may be soothing or energizing, calming or connecting.
Some resources don’t change – there’s nothing I love like a good book.
Others change every day or season.
Being creative is one thing that can really lift my spirits.
I sometimes have to make the effort to get started, and keep the project to size depending on my energy levels, but then I get to appreciate the afterglow. Making the “wreath” for our front door required a few extra trips, for example, as I no longer have a juniper to prune for greenery at this time of year. But low and behold, I picked up some mail from our old house and the wonderful family who bought it were happy to let me prune it as I used to do at this time of year (it can get monstrous!). I came home with an armful and it felt like treasure.
Having a bunch of decorations up really does lighten up the vibe for me.
What resources help you enjoy or make it more easily through the holidays?
4. When you have difficult feelings
We don’t always feel good and can’t always rally for the holidays, and that’s sometimes how it is too. There are periods when the exercise in #1 doesn’t reach below the surface of how we feel, even if we do it for longer than a few minutes at a time. Jenni at Chronic Babe made a weekly video about how it’s okay to feel sad during the holidays, whether it’s from so much of the stress of everyday life, including living with chronic illness, or for any number of other reasons. Tracey wrote about how to connect with someone during the holidays when they have recently lost a loved one. And Courtney writes about how to let go of things that make you sad.
Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. If it’s difficult despite having close friends or supportive family, or when there is no one that can help you find solace, work with a therapist. He or she can offer support, accompany you through difficult stuff that is hard to be with or tolerate on your own, assist you to get through tough times, and more. Psychotherapy does not mean you are weak or broken, it’s the gift of a caring other whose specialty is guidance so you can find your way back. Here are some therapies I recommend for chronic illness (and for anyone) as a place to start.
One of our goals for 2016 was to have more ease and support in our lives. The process of preparing and selling our house was pretty all-consuming last year and now that we’ve landed in our condo, it feels wonderful. We’ve decided to keep the simple thing going.
I was inspired by Carmella’s natural tree (and her gift wrapping!) last year and added grasses to ours that I gathered on my daily walk. She lives in a 665 square foot house with her husband and 3 sons. We are writing cards, enjoying our new fireplace and spending evenings in front of our tree. And we’re not buying presents for each other this year. Oh what fun it is to … not go shopping! Well, except for pine cones and Christmas lights :-). And a small number of practical, usable things for a few family members and a couple friends we’ll be sharing the holidays with. That’s what’s working for us this year.
David and I also talked about stocking stuffers, since they’re especially about fun. Neither one of us felt like doing that either and David recommended we at least give them a semblance of abundance. So our stockings were stuffed with paper and hang by our new chimney with joy, greenery, decorative poinsettias, and friends’ gift of chili lights a few years back (thanks Meena and Gregg!!).
If you love gifting because it is another way of enjoying the spirit of the holidays, then go for that. Feed your inner Santa :-) The underling intention with these holiday tips is about what feeds and honors your own sense of well-being.
Simplifying doesn’t have to be big and you can also find ways to do it “bit by bit,” as Courtney writes about on Be More with Less. It is also possible to deal with stress differently. Kelly McGonigal describes how it’s the stress we have control over that can have a positive effect in our lives.
6. Other ways of giving
This year we’re going to review the donations we’ve been making on a monthly basis and reassess. We ordered our Christmas cards from UNICEF the past couple of years since it’s a nice way to contribute. We’ve also loved giving to Heifer because small amounts – $20 buys a flock of geese, chicks or ducks, $30 buys honeybees – can change someone’s life.
I’ve often felt a bit overwhelmed, burdened, or ashamed with regards to donating because I don’t feel like I give much. But a recent conversation reminded me that I do give when it feels like a good fit, and every little bit makes a difference. I realized that part of why we do it, myself included, is because it really does feel good :-).
I haven’t had the physical or emotional energy to volunteer, but that’s another way of inviting feelings of connection to our hearts.
And finish with this year’s Charlie Brown Christmas Tree standing tall on our new front porch.
Wishing you peace and meaningful moments during this holiday season whether you are in snowy winter lands, in shimmery hot ones, at the beach somewhere, in your PJs in your very own bed, …. or wherever you may be.
May the New Year bring a little more (and if all possible, a LOT!) of your heart’s deepest desires.
See more Holiday Posts