Sense and Sensitivity

The ups and downs of daily life as a Highly Sensitive Person

A Christmas Gift

The advantage of being a highly sensitive person at Christmas

Being a highly sensitive person in the weeks leading up to Christmas can be overwhelming to say the least. The crowds, the shopping, the parties, and the incredible business of the season can leave me feeling like I'm on a roller coaster and I want to get off. While it is fun, it can all be a bit too much, too fast and we end up not enjoying the season but feeling frazzled and worn out. But there is an advantage to being highly sensitive, especially at this time of year.

Sensitivity means that you feel things intensely, including both sensory information such as sounds, colours, lights and smells, and emotional information, which includes both other people's feelings and your own. But that doesn't mean it is always too loud, too bright, too intense, or too much. When we absorb positive sensory or emotional input, we are able to feel a special kind of joy, and a recognition of beauty that others cannot even see.

What this means, essentially, is that it takes very little to excite or impress us or make us happy. We don't need twenty thousand Christmas lights, a party every weekend or a mortgage-sized Christmas present. What is wonderful, in fact, is that the simplest of gifts, the quietest carols, the smallest of gestures are enough to fill our hearts with joy. I am incredibly happy watching the morning sun light up the icy branches of the birch trees outside my window. I love the smell of pine cones in the woods and fresh coffee back at home. I can light candles in my living room and put on my favourite music and I am in a cathedral, as grand as any in London.

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The smallest gestures from people mean so much as well. It is always challenging to keep the negative moods of others at bay, but when they are happy, I radiate. And it doesn't take much. A simple politeness in the grocery store, a wave from a neighbour, a smile from a colleague. All it takes is sincerity. A genuine kindness. And when those simple gestures come from someone you love, the sensitive person is set alight, flying a few feet off the ground, with a heart wide open and blood rushing, set free with an indescribable happiness.

No matter what kind of presents and experiences come our way, the best part about being a highly sensitive person at Christmas is the gift we already possess - an amazing and wondrous appreciation of the simplest things in life. Being able to see beauty everywhere, in everything and in everyone is a gift I will always treasure.

Deborah Ward's new book, Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness, is available now.

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