Have you caught the Christmas spirit?
With news stories telling of the mass killing of children in Newtown, the continuing conflict in Syria and Egypt, the non-stop loss of innocent lives from terrorist bombings in Afghanistan, and North Korea firing a rocket into space, feelings of despair threaten to dampen any of the Christmas spirit.
It sometimes feels impossible to think about peace, hope, joy and love associated with Christmas when we are constantly bombarded by news reports of the grief and pain that surrounds so many people.
In spite of the trouble that it seems is everywhere, I am determined to catch the Christmas spirit.
Here are some of the tactics I am using:
- I withdraw from stories of conflict. I refuse to read reports of the latest development in war zones and I pay scant attention to radio or TV newscasts that report these stories. I no longer want to hear the latest ‘breaking news’ as grieving people are interviewed in the midst of tragedy. It has correctly been labelled ‘grief porn’ and it is repulsive to watch the media play on human emotion. Unfortunately people take part in these dialogues and if no one directly involved is available, the pundits interview each other!
- I refuse to let fear govern my behaviour. Statistics show that crime rates are decreasing in both Canada and the United States yet many people worry about home invasions, robbery and assault. While I don’t consciously put myself into dangerous situations, I will not live my life in fear.
- I try to enjoy each moment. Inevitably, Christmas means jangled nerves from shopping in crowded stores, from entertaining, and from attending holiday parties. There is the temptation to consume too much food and drink. Sleep gets compromised. To catch more Christmas spirit, I am focusing on letting things happen instead of making things happen. I’m working hard to practise mindfulness as I go through my holiday preparation lists. I have pared down my schedule of activities. I’ll listen to some of the beautiful carols and enjoy the music rather than fretting over getting all preparations to a state of unattainable perfection. I’ll take time to say a kind word and savour the smile I get in return.
- I focus on my connections with others. It’s natural to focus on connections with family and friends at Christmas. This year I am also thinking deeply about others in need — people victimized by bullies, people suffering the ravages of war or terrorism. I cannot change the course of what is happening in war-torn countries but I can take more time to talk with my neighbours, to thank instructors at my gym, and to listen to others who reach out to me in friendship.
- I smile. The folk adage ‘smile and the world smiles with you — frown and you frown alone‘ tells us that smiling is contagious. Because I know that a big smile usually elicits a big smile in return, it’s always been easy for me to smile at people. But sometimes I forget to smile at myself even though smiling boosts my mood (as well as affecting the mood of those around me)! When Christmas chores seem to get the best of me and I’m feeling overwhelmed, I smile at myself as I pass a mirror. I confess that it may begin as a fake smile but even fake smiles can turn into sincere and loving smiles that have a lasting effect.
Some or all of these tactics will help you to catch the spirit of Christmas. It’s a shame to let the warmth of this season get overtaken by a world full of conflict.
Taking some time to reflect, to honour your feelings, to kick back and forget the lists may help you to find the peace, joy and love that is the true spirit of Christmas.
Enjoy! Celebrate! Catch the spirit!