While the holiday season can be fun, for many it is a hectic, pressure-filled time. Between gift buying, holiday guests, family, cooking and traveling, we often don’t truly get to enjoy the season. However, there is something you can do to reclaim the joy and serenity often lost during this time of year: PAWS! PAWS is an acronym to help you remember to indulge in Patience, Appreciation, Wonderment and Silence.
Patience: Long lines at the stores, traffic, travel. All of these things can conspire to steal your serenity and joy. Try an extra dose of patience. Give yourself extra time to get around and lower your expectations. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry! Rushing around not only makes you crazy but often means you are missing out on what is around you. Try to breathe and be in the moment. Instead of seeing sitting in traffic or standing in line as a waste of time, reframe your thinking. No time is wasted time when you are mindful and present. Try being where your feet are. I recommend literally looking down at your feet and becoming aware of being grounded. Patience also means being patient with yourself and others. Instead of staring daggers at the back of the person ahead of you at Starbucks with the coffee order longer than a CVS receipt, try giving a smile to someone. A little kindness can brighten the day of someone else and leave you feeling better too!
Appreciation: Another thief of joy that rears its ugly head during this time of year is comparing: looking at what others have that you don’t. Social Media doesn’t really help. People are posting images of their beautiful families, vacations, decorated homes and holiday tables. We often make the mistake of comparing our insides to the outsides of others without really knowing the full story. The other mistake we make when comparing is that we don’t do so fairly. We tend to look only at others who we see as having more. This too should be reframed. I recommend NOT comparing at all but if you are going to do so, do so fairly. You also have to include people who have far less than you. Rather than comparing, try just looking at all you have and appreciating that. Focus on all the gifts in your life and spend time appreciating them. A great tool for this is a Gratitude List. Every day think of (and perhaps write down) at least 5 things for which you are grateful. Again, slow down and look around you. You will see much to appreciate. If you want an added dose of appreciation, remember those people I mentioned above who have less than you do? Another great tool to increase your appreciation is to be of service to others. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer/be of service during the holiday season. Toy drives, coat drives and feeding folks are a few popular ones this time of year, but there are no doubt, people, right in your family or community who could use some extra help or care.
Wonderment: For many of us, when we were children, the holidays were a magical time. The colorful lights, the music, the TV shows and the presents! Do you remember when you believed in Santa Claus (if he was a part of your tradition)? We used to put cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer on the hearth in the basement and in the morning, they were always gone! He had left fat pillow-cases of toys for my sister, brother and me! Maybe for you, church or temple was a special time. I remember magical Christmas Eve Mass, the candles, beautiful songs sung in Latin and the smell of frankincense in the air. As we get older, most people lose this sense of wonderment, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Think of what you can do to connect to the magic of the season. Maybe it’s as simple as really seeing what you are doing when decorating your home or taking a drive to enjoy the decorations in your neighborhood. Maybe you can start or resurrect a tradition. My sister and I meet for brunch and last-minute shopping every Christmas Eve. I also love visiting my favorite Christmas tree every year (see pic at right)! It stands in front of the Capitol Building here in DC and it’s beautiful (better than the National Christmas tree and no crowds). Think of something you would actually enjoy and do that thing!
Silence: Rumi said, “Live outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence.” He also said, “Listen to the silence. It has so much to say.” In many parts of the world, this time of year is Wintertime with shorter days, weaker sunlight and cold temperatures. This is also a time when animals hibernate, trees lose their leaves, fields lay dormant and there is a general slow down in nature. The forests become quiet, ponds, lakes and creeks freeze and people spend more time indoors. With all of this comes silence. And, stillness follows. The holiday season, with all its business, can still be a time to indulge in the gold that is silence. As a matter of fact, going into the silence and being still is a perfect antidote for the madness of the season. Even short periods of silence can be therapeutic. Pause, be still, breathe, listen. I find Winter the perfect time for meditation and contemplation; a good time to look inward and find the stillness. A good time to rest. Rather than rushing around, what if you were to go with the slowed-down flow of winter? Start by lowering your expectations of perfectionism. Look for or make quiet time. If even for just a moment. Try it today. Carve out a little niche for yourself in which to be still and listen to the silence. Revel in it. Tip: turn off all your noise-making devices for just five minutes a day and sit in quiet meditation. Come back and tell me what you noticed.
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