Today is the first of December and for many, particularly the young and young at heart, there is now a happy dash towards Christmas and love for the Festive season, but for many others it can be a time of worry, sadness and stress. I am always busier towards Christmas as people who feel outside of the festive fun for whatever reason and worry about how alien all of this festivity makes them feel. They can be badly affected by adverts and Christmas television where everyone appears happy and there seems to be nothing that can’t be fixed and yet they may be living with a lot that can’t at present be mended.Often people feeling this way can quickly become overwhelmed by it all and start to act or sound like Scrooge as they put up buffers and barriers of protection. This in turn actually starts to alienate them from other people at the very time when they perhaps need them the most.
It is very easy to get sucked in to the commercial aspect of Christmas and forget what it should really be all about and I am not just talking about the religious aspect of it, though obviously for many that is the most significant part of Christmas. I am actually talking about recognizing the opportunity that it gives us. Joseph Addison, an English writer and politician once said “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for”. If you are dreading Christmas take note of this and my guess is that you will feel happier. If we ignore the commercial advertising aspect of the Festive season and just look at the essentials we can all learn how to feel part of it and make it something to be enjoyed instead of feared or avoided.
Firstly it gives us at its most basic a holiday. We can use this for meeting up with people that are otherwise too busy working and living normal family life to meet up and relax or we can plan to rewards ourselves with a nice time to relax away from the stress of normal daily routine. So we should plan to do things around this time that normally we don’t have the time to do or are not available for us to do at other times of the year. It can be anything but there are obvious things like a panto, outdoor ice skating or one of the many food and drink festivals that are around at this time of year.
We can use this period to spend time with loved ones and reconnect in ways that we have missed throughout the busier time of the year. If you are totally alone and happy then just enjoy having time to do the things you enjoy doing. If alone and unhappy make plans to bring some love in to your life. It could be in the form of a pet, never underestimate the love and companionship having a pet can bring. Or, it could be that perhaps you need to get out and volunteer to help others and in doing so meet like-minded individuals and open your heart to the wonderful energy that working to help others brings in to your life.
I know of one person locally here, who is on her own and last year spoke with several elderly neighbours about their Christmas and finding that they had none decided to invite them to Christmas dinner at her house. So she ended up cooking for 8 others as well as herself. Her Christmas was hectic but she said she loved it and this year she and a few others are doing the same. I am not suggesting that you do the same but it is a fact that looking outside of yourself and finding a way to relate to others can often provide the most satisfaction and happiness.
Christmas can also bring us hope. As a religious festivity it is all about hope but even if we remove the religious aspect we can still share the feeling of hope and wonder as we watch others doing things to make life easier or better for those around them and even perhaps choose to become involved in this ourselves.
It is a time when we can feel a bond with others that although present all year round can often go unnoticed. It is when many ordinary and normally busy people increase their work for charities and charities can collect more. This is obviously done throughout the year but it is at Christmas that most of us will dig a little deeper to give to those without. Perhaps, it is because we all have time to stop and think of all the things in our life that we are very grateful for that we recognize now more than ever how difficult life can be for those less fortunate and we want to do something to help. Like New Year which follows so closely, it also gives us time to reflect on what we would like to be different for the following year and for us to start making plans.
Of course there can be and are a lot of negatives around this time, such as overspending and debt and loneliness but we all need to take personal responsibility for this. We do not need to buy in to the advertising. We can encourage limits to be set and we can teach our children, when young values, the importance of real values not manufactured values. That is our responsibility.
We do not need to be alone; we can reach out and connect with others if we make a choice to do so. As with everything in life it is always far easier to look to the negative, it requires much less effort and very little is ever gained by it. For some finding a way to look at the positive side of set occasions such as Christmas can be harder and definitely requires more effort if you are not naturally thrilled by it all, but if you take a positive mindset it will ripple out from you to impact others in a positive way and produces an uplifting benefit to yourself. As none of us truly know what the person next to us is going through surely it is far better to find something positive, no matter how small to say and leave them feeling happy.
I would like to end with more wise words from Joseph Addison who wrote:
I have somewhere met with the epitaph on a charitable man which has pleased me very much. I cannot recollect the words, but here is the sense of it :”What I spent I lost ;what I possessed is left to others; what I gave away remains with me”