“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” you hear over the speakers in the store. Then, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. .. . .” And, on-and-on-and-on. The commercials on TV show everyone having a great time and getting their new dream car in the driveway with a big bow on top. But, for most of us, the holidays aren’t “the most wonderful time of the year.”
And, you know what? That’s OK. Why does one part of the year have to be more wonderful than another?
Over the years, I’ve learned that there are 8 keys to holiday happiness.
1. It’s not just an Attitude of Gratitude: It’s easy to say that you feel grateful for a home, car, family and friends. However, it can be a challenge practice feeling deep gratitude for those things. Rather than just saying “I’m thankful for” and filling in the blank, say what you’re thankful for and why. Add the details of your gratitude. Get personal about your gratitude. What do those things mean to you? What do they do that make you grateful for them?
2. The road to hell is paved with good intentions: Or, maybe not. Intentions are defined as, “an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions”. You can set your intention for each day before you get out of bed, for your workout, your shopping trip to the grocery store, and the next family gathering. The funny thing about consciously setting intentions is they match the experience of the intention you set. That means, of course, that you are setting realistic intentions. If Uncle Marty always shows up, drinks too much and starts spouting off political views opposite to yours, that can be hard to handle. If you set the intention to be able to deal with Uncle Marty, separate yourself from him, and not let him ruin the day, then you can find ways to make that happen.
3. “If you fail to plan . . .”: “. . . You plan to fail” -Benjamin Franklin. Taking the time to plan helps you know what you need to do and when. I like to start by putting all of the non-work things on my calendar like sleeping, eating, getting ready, working out, etc. Then, I know how much time I have left for everything else. Taking time to plan your meals even one or a few days at a time means you don’t have to spend energy figuring out what you’re going to eat when you’re hungry. You already know. You can plan your holiday season – what you have coming up, when, and what you want the experience to be like. If you don’t plan, you’re at the whims of the day and everyone else around you.
4. “Just Do It!” ~ Nike Slogan – Once you have your plan, then you have to, “Just Do It!”. If you don’t do your plan, then what was the point in putting it together in the first place? Having and doing your plan helps keep you on track and helps deliver the result you want – be it a meal on the table or a holiday that you wanted.
5. Don’t fall off a cliff shopping for gifts: How much time, energy and stress do you spend shopping for the “perfect” gift? Is there a better way? What about giving experiences rather than gifts? A friend and I quit giving each other traditional gifts a few years ago. Now, we give each other the gift of our time. We meet for dinner once a month (and split the bill). Allowing us to schedule time to spend together and not have the stress of shopping. You can also give gifts that help others. You can give a Kiva gift card that allows the cardholder to give a microloan to one or more people around the world. And, Kiva gift cards keep on giving because they get to give microloans again and again as each is repaid. There are also Tis ‘Best cards that let you give a gift card for an amount, and the recipient gets to use immediately or make a donation to the charity of their choice.
6. Savor the flavors: When you’re eating, be sure to stop and focus on the food you’re eating. What does it really taste like? What flavors are you picking up? What’s the texture – soft, crunchy, hard, chewy, dry? How do the flavors and textures change as you chew each bite? What is your most favorite of all the foods if you had to choose just one? Why? Which is your least favorite? Why? Give the food, the spotlight it deserves by really enjoying it. You can have some fun by talking about the flavors, textures, and most favorite dishes with the other people at the table.
7. Don’t let the day be empty, make memories! What do you remember from last year’s holidays? What do you want to remember from this year’s holidays? One way you can make sure you remember is to stop and take a mental snapshot of everything around you. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Who is there with you? What are you doing? What are they doing? Make your mental snapshot as vivid as you can. Stop at least three times through the day and take a mental snapshot. When you go back to you memories of this day, those are the things you’ll remember most vividly.
8. Be perfectly imperfect: The only “perfect” celebration is on TV or in the movies. And, those aren’t reality; they’re fantasies. Comparing yourself (and others) to fantasies only sets you (and them) up for failure. Rather than trying to make everything “perfect”, and be “perfect” why not open up yourself and others for imperfection. Not stressing about being “perfect” and having the “perfect” holidays allows you to relax and enjoy what comes. Even with the planning and “just do it” from the steps above, allow some room for imperfection if it will allow you to relax and enjoy yourself and the holidays more.
Penny Wilson is a certified dietitian and nutritionist at the Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. She specializes in integrative and functional nutrition. For more about the Vail Vitality Center, visit www.vailvitalitycenter.com.
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