4 “happiness strategies” for the holidays

e-holiday-card_2012_Woman's Paris

The “holidays”, however your family and community of origin define them, can be rather fraught, yes? Family, friends, gifts, events, proximity, distance, introverts, extroverts, messy people, neat freaks, too much, too little… it’s… well, it’s a lot. And we’re trying, right?

Check out my current strategies for keeping the holiday season a happy one in the midst of these wild, wooly, wonderful lives we’re all living:

1. Build in down time. Really. Do it. Maybe we “over-do” not so much because this one and that one need and expect and deserve this and that from us or we need and expect and deserve it all, but because we’re just accustomed to doing too much. How about this: take some time to truly chill. Groove on some simple conversations, 100% present, nothing to handle during or after, no next thing half queued-up. Take a nap, or a few. Sleep late. Go to bed early. Zone out. Walk. Think. Doodle. Daydream. Don’t worry: more unmanageably busy times are coming!

2. Cook and eat healthy meals, for pleasure and fun. Gathering in the kitchen over simple shared tasks is the good stuff. The image above is a favorite of mine this season–thanks, Barbara Redmond!–as I believe in the connection between beautiful food and happiness.

3. Stay in present time, not in the past or the future. Dreams and goals are good, as are many of the powerful collective memories that fuel our holiday actions and experiences. And, in the yin and yang of all things, invariably some aren’t so good. Either way, try just fully experiencing what’s here: people, place, the mystery of this moment. Consider stopping to reflect whenever you notice you’re in the past, or the future. It’s a more rigorous discipline than you might initially imagine, with benefits like peace of mind and ready energy, with less life force tied up in constantly thinking about and interpreting our experiences as good or bad, measuring up to something in our pasts or imagined futures, or not. Whew! It’s a load off.

4. And one more with feeling: remember that no one and no situation has the power to make you feel bad, about yourself or just in general, unless you allow it. The power is yours. Meditate on this killer secret knowledge and feel its effects in your body, a firm upward tug on your bootstraps, lightness about your head and shoulders. Stay very conscious of your power to make your holidays what you want them to be, and share with lucky others–whatever their mood–your resulting good feelings, renewed energy, vibrancy, and sense of mystery.

And enjoy! 2013 awaits, with all its big and small pleasures, tasks, plans, challenges, schemes, dreams, visions, and potholes. And to me all that ongoing yin-yanging is the good stuff, too. Life happening. Beautiful!