Treat yourself to a calmer, more joyful, and meaningful holiday season.
The holiday season is here in all its splendor! The anticipation, the sparkly lights, the religious rituals, family traditions, favorite recipes and special songs. The stalking mall shoppers for their parking spots, door-busting deals at 2 a.m. and long ‘to do’ lists.
Our lists seem to grow longer and more onerous each year as we squeeze working, shopping, planning meals, cleaning, wrapping, traveling, socializing and more into our already packed calendars.
We often act as if these are the only days available to share fellowship, gifts, and meaning. And so we push forward, careening into the new year, tapped out socially, physically, emotionally, and financially. Some of us began the holiday season that way.
Typical holiday stress-busting articles suggest a variety of ways to prioritize, simplify, and delegate. Honing these skills, they say, help fend off the stress, overwhelm, and sadness experienced by so many of us who already have too full plates or face difficult situations.
I’d like to propose a radically different approach. Instead of doing more in less time, why don’t we all just take a deep breath and slow down? Not to a snail’s pace, but a little bit.
Below are 3 research-based strategies that will jump-start the changes you’d like to feel, whether that means engaging more in the beauty and meaning of the season, freeing yourself from mental clutter, lowering your stress, boosting your creativity, or simply accomplishing more.
Treat yourself to one of the three strategies. Use one a little bit each day through the end of the year – maybe just 4 or 6% more – to begin crafting a calmer, more joyful and meaningful holiday season this year.
Peace to you, my friends, this holiday season.
STRATEGY #1 – USE A CHARACTER STRENGTH IN A NEW WAY
“When it comes to the things we value and the goals we most hope to accomplish…it is strengths that will help us be at our best, give us the greatest sense of meaning, and enjoy our lives to the fullest.”
When we think of strengths, we often think of “achievement-based” skills and talents that contribute to our successes in work and life. Problem solving skills, networking skills, or artistic capabilities readily come to mind.
Character strengths also contribute to success, though they’re often overlooked in everyday situations. When we use our own character strengths, we feel fulfilled and morally valued without diminishing others. They are the elements of personality that lead to meaning.
The 24 character strengths include creativity, curiosity, love of learning, bravery, perseverance, honesty, kindness, teamwork, fairness, and leadership. Forgiveness, humility, prudence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality. And others.
The use of each character strength cultivates a specific virtue – wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Kindness, for example, cultivates humanity.
Performing a random act of kindness each day, like carrying someone’s groceries or giving the mail carrier a hot cup of cocoa to go, would be one way to exercise that strength and raise humanity.
If you’d like to learn more about character strengths or take the free assessment to learn your highest strengths, click on this link https://www.viame.org/www/en-us/aboutviame.aspx
Take a moment to reflect on the character strengths that help you be your best, provide a sense of meaning and purpose, or enhance your life. If you were to use that strength a little bit more – maybe just 3 or 5% – what would you do?
STRATEGY #2 – CULTIVATE AUTHENTICITY
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
-C. G. Jung
How would you answer the question “who are you?” Your answer might reflect the roles you play in life – a parent, a spouse, a student, an executive. But that doesn’t reveal the deeper substance of who you really are.
Many of us don’t know who we are. We live our lives according to what our jobs, family, or friends expect of us because that seems easier than becoming who we want to be and doing what we want to do.
The price is steep. Living someone else’s life leaves a feeling of emptiness deep inside and extinguishes that inner fire that fuels our potential to do great things.
Authenticity is knowing yourself and being yourself. It sounds simple, but the pressures of the holidays make it easy to be less authentic. Now is the perfect time to begin a practice of authenticity. To reflect on what you value, find meaningful, and care about. Then to express that and act on it.
Becoming who we truly are is the privilege of a lifetime. If you could step into your authentic life…The dots are for you to reflect on and reveal how you can live just 4 or 7% more authentically this holiday season.
STRATEGY #3 – PRACTICE MEDITATING
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
Take a moment to think about your 50,000+ daily thoughts. How many are anxiety- or stress-producing?
Our minds wander, often into the future. What if the weather prevents me from getting home? What if I can’t pay that bill? What if I don’t get a job? What if she doesn’t love me?
Future uncertainty is a source of high stress and anxiety. The pressures and pace of the holiday season can intensify our worries and add new ones.
Neuroscientists have found that meditation shifts brain activity from the stress center to other parts of the brain. This shift reduces stress, mild depression, and anxiety. Meditation has also been shown to reduce migraines, pain and the risk of heart disease; enhance energy and immune system function; boost creativity, memory, reaction time, and IQ.
Before you decide you don’t have time to meditate or that you can’t imagine sitting still for even a minute, ask yourself how much time you spend checking emails, catching up on Facebook or LinkedIn, and surfing the web. And consider whether a few moments of your time would be worth a greater sense of inner calm and focus.
To begin a simple meditation practice, try using a 4-breath meditation to reset your mind and body before a meeting, a family get-together, or any time you feel hurried or anxious. With eyes closed and long deep breaths, use breath 1 for centering. Breath 2 for gratitude for your practice. Breath 3 for inner peace. Breath 4 for setting the intention to carry this feeling forward. Centering. Gratitude. Peace. Intention. Just four deep breaths.
Biswas-Diener, Robert (2010). Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Peterson, Christopher & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Washington, D.C.: APA Press and Oxford University Press.
Allen, Colin (April 1, 2003). Psychology Today. Based on studies conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School.