How to Use Your Imagination to Fortify Yourself for the Holidays

Visualizing "whirled peas" and other holiday survival tricks

Posted Nov 23, 2009

When most people hear the word "creativity," they think it applies solely to the arts or to some visionary endeavor. But creativity can be added to everyday life. And never do we need our powers of creativity more than when we're attending big holiday family occasions, like Thanksgiving. Even when we love and adore all the attendees, a lot of buried issues tend to get stirred up.

We can use our creativity in obvious ways to help us get the most out of the day--from the way we dress, to what food or gfits we bring, to how we choose to respond to any gauntlets thrown. We can also get creative in advance by tapping into our powers of imagination to visualize our response to stressful situations and to help strengthen our overall sense of well being.

Visualization is the process in which you purposely induce mental imagery or a daydream-like scenario in an attempt to bring about a desired outcome or to simply get the feel-good emotions associated with the imagined event. It's a decades-old practice that has earned a certain amount of scorn. Calls to "visualize world peace" have morphed into bumper stickers exhorting people to "visualize whirled peas." Well, you don't need to tackle world peace this holiday season. Just getting through the day with a smile on your face will be a noble accomplishment.

Here are some tips for how you can use your powers of visualization to prepare for any awkward or irritating situations that just might arise.

• Days before the event, watch what your mind is defaulting to. You may find that a lot of old fights or slights are popping into your head at random moments, filling you with bursts of anger and making you defensive even before the day arrives. Watch out for these and gently step away from those thoughts. You literally don't have to go there. It's not happening--you're imagining it. So stop, and conjure up a better image or imagined scenario. One that makes you feel good, not bad.
• Have a set of mental stock images or daydreams ready to go. Rehearse them often in advance. For visualization to work, it's better if you practice often in an attempt to give yourself a kind of "muscle-memory response" to the imagined scenario.
• Anticipate problem scenarios and plan your response--hopefully, a response that cools a situation and doesn't throw gasoline on a fire. Use a daydreaming state to fully imagine a potential situation. Example: Uncle Bob says, "Have you ever published that novel yet?" when he knows damn well that you haven't. Or the well-meaning aunt who asks: "How's the job hunt going?" when obviously you would have shared any good news if you had it. Use these awkward comments as a trigger to bring up your planned calming visualization. Have a pleasant response ready, one that provides a quick answer, yet changes the conversation. Or simply imagine your "happy thought," smile and turn to someone else and start another conversation. I think avoidance is an underrated virtue.
• Wear a necklace or piece of clothing or jewelry that you have invested with the power to ward off evil or just irritating comments. It's a trick, to be sure, but one that I've found useful in the past.
• When all else fails, excuse yourself, lock yourself in the bathroom, take multiple deep breaths, and visualize "whirled peas" or whatever else it is that gets you through the day or night.

I hope your day will be delightful, that you're surrounded by people you love and enjoy, that you're doing exactly what you want, and that you don't really have to use any of these techniques. But a little prevention and planning never hurts.

Here's wishing all of us a Happy Thanksgiving!

© Amy Fries

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About the Author

Amy Fries

Amy Fries is a writer and editor. She is the author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers.

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