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5 Ways To Ensure A Very Merry Christmas

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5 Ways To Ensure A Very Merry Christmas

Celebrate the joys of life
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D. More by this author
Dec 23, 2015 at 07:00 AM

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and also to be happy-grateful-organized-loving-peaceful-kind-generous-relaxed. No pressure there, then. Christmas and the holiday season is my favorite time of year. It can be so romantic, joyful, and inspiring. That said, I also recognize it can be a poignant and challenging time, and I believe most of us can sympathize with the statement:  Christmas comes but once a year, and that’s quite enough!

Throughout the year, there are many significant dates and celebrations including Thanksgiving, Bodhi Day (Buddha’s Enlightenment), Al Hijra (Muslim New Year), Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and many other religious festivals of light. It’s a BIG time. Everything is magnified. Your whole life comes into sharp focus - both the light and the shadow - and for this reason it can be a very confronting time.

When I worked at my first health clinic attached to the local hospital, I witnessed first-hand how the holiday season can take its toll. Official statistics report that, year after year, prescriptions for depression, anxiety, and insomnia soar during this time. Counseling organizations and crisis centers, like Relate and The Samaritans, report a 40% increase in calls. Charities and churches also have their work cut out coping with the stress of Christmas.

So, what can you do to make sure you have a merry Christmas and holiday season this year?  Here are my top five tips.

1.  Stay in the Spirit

Think carefully about what you want the purpose of Christmas to be this year. Having a clear sense of purpose will help you to stay centered and focused on the true meaning and spirit of this time. Reflecting on the purpose of Christmas may also cast some light on the bigger purpose of your life:  If life really is a gift how would I really like to live?

Setting a conscious intention to enjoy Christmas and the holiday season can also be very empowering. The word enjoy in Old English means, “to bring joy.” Joy is found in intentions, not just outcomes. Reflect on your past Christmases, and remember what went well and what mistakes you made. Remember, Christmas is what you make it.

2. Experience the Joy of Giving

Anyone who doesn’t believe Christmas can last all year long obviously doesn’t have a credit card. You can save yourself a lot of financial pressure and stress by reminding yourself that the real gifts of the holiday season come from the heart. Make a list of all the gifts of Christmas that money can’t buy. If you give from your heart you will not confuse money with love.

There are no prizes for being a Christmas Martyr – all you end up with is resentment, gift-wrapped! If you have a habit of people pleasing or leaving yourself out of the picture, you have to be especially careful at this time of year. Remember, if you are playing the martyr it is because you want to. Martyrdom is always a self-appointed role. Give yourself a gift and resign from the role now. As the old saying goes, “Get off the cross – we could do with the wood.”

3. Be Filled with Gratitude

One of my favorite exercises for this time of year is called “100 Gratitudes.”  The idea is to compile a list of gratitudes from the past year. A typical list includes specific special experiences, friendships, successes, gifts, lessons, and also difficult times you have grown through. Your “100 Gratitudes” helps to spread the spirit of thanksgiving across the whole year. It may also help you to think about what is important for the year to come.

This can be a powerful practice to identify what truly inspires you and lights up your life. Why not revisit an inspiring book, or watch a favorite movie, or book a short retreat?  Every December I re-read A Christmas Carol, and I watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I also sit with some of my favorite meditations from A Course in Miracles. It’s time to bring in the light.

4. Receive the Gift of Forgiveness

Christmas is a time for relationships. It’s a chance to give thanks for your friendships. It’s also a time to heal old wounds and to restore love to its proper place. Be warned, if your relationships have not received the necessary love and attention from January to November, don’t expect days of carefree bliss in December!  That said, it is never too late to build a bridge, to say, “I’m sorry,” to show your love, and to give your most important relationships your best attention.

Forgiveness captures the real essence of Christmas and many other spiritual festivals held at this time of year. Try this Forgiveness Prayer: Dear God, I declare today a day of Amnesty in which I gladly volunteer to hand in all of my resentments and grievances to You. Please help me to handle well all of the peace that must inevitably follow. Amen.  Forgiveness is a gift you give that sets YOU free. It helps you to release the past, to step into the present, and to create a happier future.

5. Be a Light for Others

The holiday season is a time to celebrate the coming of light. For this reason, I encourage you to be a light for people at this time of year. For some people this will be their first Christmas since a bereavement, a separation, or a divorce. There are also people in your life who will be spending Christmas alone this year. The holiday season is a precious opportunity to deepen your commitment to being a truly loving presence in the world.

A note of caution: undoubtedly, we will all have some difficult moments over the holiday season. It’s hard to stay cheerful when you’ve burnt the mince pies, the poppers don’t pop, the dog has chewed the mistletoe, and someone is refusing to wear a paper hat because “It’s silly.” Not all your plans and wishes will come true this Christmas.

Whatever happens, resolve to keep your sense of humor. Remember, blessed are they who can smile at themselves for they will never cease to be amused.

One last thing: Make a point of saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” to the shop assistants, the bus drivers, and everyone else who serve you. It sounds obvious, but many of us forget. Saying “Merry Christmas” is a blessing that will help you remember the spirit of the season. Christmas is, after all, a time for love and goodwill – and in this respect it is like every other day in the year. Merry Christmas!

About Author
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D.’s innovative work on psychology and spirituality has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, a PBS show called Shift Happens! and a major BBC documentary called How to Be Happy, shown in 20 countries to o Continue reading