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Happy…? Holidays

For many the holiday season is a joyful time, for others it can be a time of loneliness or stress. Most of us experience a combination of these feelings depending upon the circumstances. In some years things seem to go very well, some years are just mediocre, and in some years it feels like we will barely survive the madness.

What if we could reclaim the holidays as an occasion for general enjoyment and peace rather than striving for some picture perfect experience? We think it is possible, at least in small moments or doses.

Here are a few ways to make the season a bit brighter:

If you experience the holidays as a lonely time:
Find ways to connect with others. Take a risk and reach out to friends and family; you may be surprised at the invitations you receive. Be bold: offer to host a gathering or take someone out for coffee or dinner. Remember, you are unlikely to be the only one who’s feeling lonely.

Design a new holiday tradition such as volunteering at food bank and/or giving a stressed friend or family member the gift of your time by offering to babysit, run errands or provide help with a task (perhaps even one that’s holiday themed, like preparing a traditional food or decorating). It’s much harder to feel lonely when you are busy helping others.

If you experience holidays as a stressful time:
Don’t put yourself last! Resist the pressure to give to the point of financial, physical or emotional “bankruptcy.” Ensure that you have some time and energy to focus on your own needs and wants. Doing so will be a gift to all, as you will be much happier and relaxed for not having exhausted all of your resources.

It’s OK to decline some invitations or to decide that you won’t do something you would typically do. The world will not come to end if a party goes on without you or you resolve not to take charge of the cooking this year. If you hear grumbles about the changes, try to put them in perspective. Strive to see this new approach as an opportunity for you (and others) to share responsibilities and develop new skills, including the vital skill of saying “no.”

Make moments of tranquility part of your daily routine. Find simple and inventive ways to take a break and de-stress such as:

  • Spend 5 or 10 minutes here and there doing nothing but relaxing.
  • Take short walks.
  • Read a blog or magazine article.
  • Call a friend who makes you laugh.
  • Play some music to soothe you as you are rushing around from place to place or completing necessary tasks.
  • Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to; people will typically leave you alone in there.

Most importantly, decide for yourself what the holidays are about. Sometimes we mourn what we think we are supposed to be feeling or experiencing when these notions may actually come from family, friends or marketers. Create your own vision of what’s important and what constitutes a good time. Determine what matters to you and then use your time to do that instead of what you think you should be doing.

Self-Discovery Tool Number 71
Make the season bright no matter your circumstances. Take the initiative both to reach out to others and to engage in self-care. Take the opportunity to do and see things in new ways. Doing so the fosters the wellbeing of all – and what could be more holiday-season appropriate than that?! Happy Holidays 2014!

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Wait a minute…consider the power of silence

The Artist was jut released on DVD here in the US. It is an unusual film for the present day because for nearly its entire length you hear only the musical score – it is a silent film. This got us thinking about how we often make talking and doing a priority over silence and reflection.

Part of self-discovery is exploration. If we experiment with silence, we may be able to make space to notice the ways in which we are reacting out of patterned behavior. Often we are too attached to taking some immediate action or voicing a hastily conceived opinion. A moment of silence, for instance counting to ten when we are angry, can give us time to reflect on our reactions – not necessarily to make them wrong – but to give us a chance to examine them and then express those that are truly important to us in a way that is respectful to ourselves as well as the to the situation and the others involved.

Self-discovery is also about getting to the heart of things and identifying our core principles. Being silent can help here, too, because a quiet environment can encourage us to focus. If we turn off all of our devices, seek a spot without manmade background noises and soak in the stillness, we may be better able to get in touch with our values. Doing so can create an inner calm to match the outer one we’ve engineered.

Finally, part of self-discovery is accomplished in connecting with others. Communicating with others helps many of us get clarity on what we think through the sharing process. What can get lost, without some periods of quiet, is the chance to hear our inner voice. Indeed we may keep on talking in an effort to mute this voice and avoid the material it is urging us to recognize. Time spent in reflection can help us open up to these voices and to their input. When we don’t speak, we can listen.

Not acting immediately and instead allowing silence can give us space to test our assumptions about what is really happening within and without. This in turn helps us to uncover more of who we are and what we want. Then, when we do take action, the outcomes are more pleasurable and satisfying because they are in line with our true nature and what we hope to achieve.

Self-Discovery Tool 51
Wait a minute, take a breath, and then observe your internal and external environment. More often than not, what is happening does not require an instantaneous response and pausing will most likely strengthen and improve whatever action is taken. Enjoy the tranquility and potential benefits that a little time honoring silence provides!