I am going to kick off the true flurry of the holiday season by saying something a bit radical. The person who you should be doing the most for and giving the most to ~ for the good of everyone ~ is Yourself.
“But Sir James,”, you might protest, “this is a season devoted to giving to others.” Our upcoming holiday is built upon the idea of giving gifts and sharing what you have. Sadly, it is also the time of year when people suffer most from depression.
So I’ll pose another potentially controversial thought: What kind of gift are you to those around you? If you wrapped yourself in festive holiday paper and gave yourself to someone you love in your current state, what kind of gift are they getting?
Are they getting a gift who:
Is self satisfied and happy?
Feels content with life?
Is fun to be around?
Has a growth mindset?
Is often excited?
Speaks positive words?
Focuses on possibilities more than problems?
Is solution oriented rather than a complainer?
Or do they get a gift who:
Watches the news and rails about the many current (and past) injustices in the world?
Is prone to frustration and quick to anger?
Shops for gifts while focusing on the cost of them rather than the joy that they will bring?
Works harder than they would like and makes sure everyone knows it?
Is dissatisfied with their life and the state of humanity?
Operates often on autopilot and moves through their days without intention?
Focuses on what is going wrong rather than what is going right?
You get the idea…
This is not intended to be critical, rather it is intended to be a loud holiday call for you to give yourself grace. As a culture we are so accustomed to looking at the end goals: presents for everyone (without breaking the bank), a successful holiday party or family get-together, etc. and all the things that need to be DONE, that we forget to focus on how it all makes us FEEL. And how do those around us FEEL when they experience us?
It is said often that the present is a gift, the words can even be synonyms. But I ask you to frame yourself in this present moment by thinking of yourself as a gift.
Are others excited to receive you? Would you be excited to get your current self as a gift?
Again, this is not an invitation for you to further flagellate yourself for not living up to the many expectations of the season. It is a reminder to, as much as possible, sloooow down. Take a few intentional moments at the beginning of your day to breathe deeply and set intentions for your day, for how you want to feel and how you plan to make others feel. Drink your coffee or tea slowly. Try not to rush through your day, or at least intentionally choose a pert that you are going to slow down for. Stay present with how you are feeling. Express appreciation to others. Be kind to yourself. Surprise your spouse or a co-worker with a random compliment or note of gratitude, a sincere one, and do the same for a stranger you encounter. Make a decision to notice something minor but uplifting.
At the end of your day, give yourself some proverbial pats on the back for any wins that you created that day, however big or small. Remember, you can give yourself a high five for the things you didn’t do, as well as the things that you did do. “I didn’t get frustrated in traffic, I left work early and found a podcast that made me laugh instead.” That could seem to be of little consequence, and maybe you would normally feel guilty for leaving work early or not listening to the news and staying abreast of current atrocities. You could also choose to drive a longer route home, which gets you home later but feeling better. These seemingly small and self-serving actions can have great results, as you arrive home to your family having already released some of the stress of your day, rather than already frustrated.
I know this may feel both counterintuitive and even perhaps a bit alarming. We have been fed the narrative of bustling overconsumptive holidays for so long, it’s hard to imagine slowing down and doing less for the season. We’re all so used to wanting more, not less. But at what cost?
So if I may be so bold as to dole out holiday directives from my vantage points of :
- Someone who is about to experience my 70th holiday season
- A world renowned healer and neuroscience practitioner
I would prescribe that you give yourself the gift of grace. The gift of saying no. The gift of simplifying. The gift of being ok if you disappoint some expectations. The gift of deciding what traditions matter to you and which ones you’d like to let go of. The gift of slowing down. The gift of not succumbing to overconsumption. The gift of paying attention to how you feel. The gift of creating experiences that feel meaningful. The gift of knowing that you know better than anyone else what feeds your soul and what drains it. The gift of filling your own cup so much that come the climactic days of the holidays that you and your family practice, you will feel like you’ll be one of the best presents you’ve ever gotten for anyone. If you feel like it, stick a bow on your head and feel confident in telling others: “I am a gift. You’re welcome.”
Happy Holidays everyone! Let’s make it a season to slow down and remember the lightness of being. And if you need any guidance, I am always just a phone call away, eager to offer myself as a great gift for you too.