The Gift of Peace
Treat yourself this holiday season.
Posted Dec 06, 2019
As the holidays approach, for many people the physical and emotional demands of shopping, cooking, traveling, entertaining, wrapping and finding that elusive “perfect gift” permeate their consciousness. For others who may be suffering from loss—financial, job, divorce or death—the holidays are like an approaching stampede of angry men and women just waiting to trample all over their dreams and hopes. Even for the happiest of families, the holidays can be exhausting and draining. The negative self-talk all humans are capable of experiencing is exacerbated and enhanced during the holiday season.
What if this year you could give yourself a very special personal gift? It’s the gift of peace. This gift allows your whirring mind to cease its endless chatter for a period of time, allows you to stop and breathe instead of racing to and fro, and allows you to find enjoyment in the little things all around you during the holidays. It’s a gift just waiting to be taken, and this year you could choose to accept it as your own.
The first step to receiving the gift is to agree to give up the illusion that something spectacular and life-changing happens over the holidays. Remember that consumer purchases drive the economy, and so not only are the stores invested in your need to shop, but the stock analysts are counting on you and the economic indicators will be good or bad depending on how much everyone spends. Stores tempt you with their discount coupons and your friends’ and family’s self-worth and happiness in your relationship seem tied to how well you mind-read and then purchase the most perfect gift for them. You could choose not to participate this year. It sounds insurmountable, but you could decide you won’t be part of the mad rush, hoping to get the best possible deal and rushing out to shop after a long hard day in order to do so. You could walk by shops, and even go inside and stroll through, and decide you will not purchase one thing. If you need to give a gift, consider donating in someone’s honor, or purchasing something for a homeless shelter or friend in need. Do something with your money that makes you feel good, and walk through the stores without a second glance at the 50% off sale signs trying to lure you in. As you stroll through, wear earphones listening to a song that uplifts you or sing a song in your head that makes you happy. There is so much freedom in being unattached.
The second step you can take is to become aware of your own self-talk around the holiday bedlam. You, like most people, have likely been programmed that “love” at the holidays or happiness is connected to just how frenetic you can become. The advertisers inundate all of us with words like ‘the perfect gift’ to entice us to go on a hunt and find what’s perfect to soothe otherwise imperfect lives. Watch the self-talk that guides and pushes you toward that perfect place – the right meal, the right gift, the right amount of debt to go along with all of it. Instead, create a mantra for yourself to replace these frantic thoughts. When you catch yourself running, rushing and worrying about what to do, change your self-talk. Allow yourself some space—“the holidays are temporary, I choose to be peaceful and calm.” When you find your heart and mind chasing some elusive state, change your talk—tell your mind you choose peace and calm. If you do this enough times, your mind will draw you there over and over again.
The third step is to focus your attention elsewhere. It’s cold in many areas, so bundle up and get yourself outside. If you are lucky enough to live where it is nice, use every opportunity to go for a walk and look around. Connect yourself to natural things—even in a city, the trees grow, the birds sing and there are open spaces in most places. Turn your attention to the world outside and around you. The holidays are very small in comparative terms to the rest of your world, but you need to be reminded of this because they can seem so all-consuming; be open and interested in bigger things—focus outside in a conceptual and literal sense.
Lastly, consider the chance to redesign how you want the holidays to be for you. A recent survey found that most people would prefer not to celebrate the holiday rather than get out on the road with other commuters traveling to friends and family for the day. This is so significant because it reminds us that we have choices. No one dictates what is most important to you—you can design what you would like to have happen. Maybe you can celebrate the holiday on a different day with family or friends, maybe you can all decide to volunteer together somewhere, maybe you can take a day trip together after the holiday and enjoy somewhere new. You might find, if you propose these ideas to those you care about, that they will be as excited about the prospect of not engaging in the melee as you are. Try them out and see how it goes.
You don’t have to agree to be thrown into the mad rush. You can stand outside and watch others rushing by, while you stand there in peace and contentedness.