In spite of all the overly indulgent activities, there is something magical about the holidays, something we might consider bringing forward into the new year. As I sent my twin sons back to college and waved goodbye to my daughters as they boarded the bus taking them off to school, I felt a bittersweet twinge in the glorious silence in my home.
The truth is the holidays are a place to take a breath, to reflect and enjoy what is important. No, I don't think you should inhale a sodium-rich ham once a week or take every Thursday off to lay around in your pajamas (that last idea actually sounds pretty good!).
There are a few healthy holiday activities we might not want to relegate to the final moments of each year. Here are seven ways to bring the best of the holidays into the 2015.
The holidays are a mix of end-of-the-year nostalgia and a first-of-the-year excitement. Unlike the haze and comfort in the summer months, with the cushion of hundreds of days to accomplish our goals before year's end, we become aware of the fleeting seconds, the inevitable march towards... well, getting older. We review our challenges and triumphs and look at the future as a beautiful book to be written.
Maintain that sense of privilege and responsibility as you move forward in your life. Don't procrastinate because you have plenty of time. Build "New Year's Eve" moments into your calendar, days you create space to think about your progress and celebrate the chance to start over again.
The true heart of holiday gift giving is delicious. Asking children (and sometimes adults) to create lists for Santa. Hunting for the perfect scarf or that elusive Lego set. The gift under the tree that serves as a reminder of someone you love. Teasing someone with how much they are going to love your gift and watching with glee as they open your present with excitement. For that moment, what a privilege it is to be the giver.
Continue the tradition of giving! No, you don't have to put yourself in debt, but why not keep an eye out for little gifts you can give to your friends and family? Grab random moments to send a card to an old friend. Take pleasure in the process of giving. It's not just for the holidays.
In the days between Christmas and New Year's, I lost track of the time and even the date. The holidays do that to all of us, stealing our routines and replacing them with cookie exchanges, parties and movie marathons. I realized at that moment what a treat it is to be released from the where and the when for a moment and just enjoy the what. I didn't have to go anywhere; the holidays aligned everything into the precious now.
Every so often, take time off from the routine, perhaps in the middle of the week, to retreat into the "holiday time and space bubble." Invite your friends and family to join in. Organize a potluck, watch a Netflix marathon, stay in your pajamas and just have some fun. Remember, it's not a waste of time, it's an exercise in self-love and rejuvenation.
The holidays are a time of striking contrast between abundance and scarcity. As you bustle around, planning for the company of friends and family, it becomes apparent you don't lack for much. Nestled in with your family, cozy and safe, your heart opens to those who don't have what you have. You give a little more. You donate what you have. You buy bags of groceries, donate an extra dollar or adopt a family.
Those in need don't disappear with the holidays. Why not connect with that feeling of gratitude and abundance once a month? Choose an organization to support or a philanthropic activity once a month. Visit the pantry, make Meals for the Heartland, gather cash for an organization from your co-workers, or run a 5K for water in famine-stricken countries. There will always be a need for people with willing and open hearts.
No matter what your spiritual orientation, the holidays are a spiritual event. It is otherworldly to think of others, to take stock of yourself, to think beyond the daily grind of your life. For a few moments between holiday parties and wrapping presents, you focus on the divine, self-love, love for the world and life's purpose. You ask the questions that can only be sent out to the great and expansive void. It's healthy to think about things that are bigger than us.
Create spiritual moments for yourself. Take a walk in nature and feel the beauty of the blue dome that covers all of us. See the future in the stars. Imagine all the humans that look at the moon, say a prayer or positive thought and send it out into the universe.
My children are enamored with our rituals around the holidays. They love the elaborate table settings at the dining room table, the gift exchanges with our friends, the special themed ornament we give them each year and the process of transforming the house. Even through the laughter and the teasing there is a sense of peace and beauty as we move through another milestone together. At the heart of it there is reverence and mindfulness. It's good stuff.
Build ritual into your life. Set aside one day a week and keep a gratitude journal. Create a process designed to remind you of those you love, maybe a candle to light or favorite photos. Say a prayer as you go for your daily walk.
I have a confession: I'm a bit of a workaholic. Sometimes, I'm so embroiled in my writing and speaking and helping, I forget about the people who crave my attention. I'm so grateful every year when the clients stop calling and I'm forced to focus on the wonderful people I get to call my family. The holidays are a sacred space for the people you love, and the people you have loved. I will hold dear the handful of days in which we had the privilege to eat together, laugh together, cry together (yes sometimes cry) and breathe the same air. It's always a good day to be together, isn't it?
Set up a few days for your family and friends to be together with the intention of simply enjoying them. Let the mess sit on the ground and let the time flow. Just focus on the faces and the enjoyment you are feeling. That is what life is all about.
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