Ah, the holidays. A time for family, friends and lots of food. The poet Longfellow described the holiest of all holidays as the “secret anniversaries of the heart.” That's because the memories we create during that time leave a vivid impression, tattooing sweet memories in our minds. This is the time of year to mend fences, create goodwill, and find solace in simply being.

Still, there’s no denying that the holiday season can sometimes leave us feeling less-than-satisfied with our experience. It seems that expectations are the enemy of enjoyment, and focusing on how we perform over the holidays can suck the soul right out of them.

We have gathered a few tips for those of us who are bound and determined to rediscover the magic this year.

Be Clear

Remember being asked to journal in English or psychology class? As goofy as it may have felt at that moment, creating a written record of your thoughts is a great tool for clarifying how you feel. This year, just for kicks, write down your image of the perfect holiday season. It may look nothing like those you’ve experienced in the past, or it may borrow heavily from your favorite parts.

Part of losing our joy during the holidays is due to the fact that we “go along for the ride.” We don’t want to make waves, so we do what everyone else wants us to do. We become like a lifeboat in stormy ocean, being pulled this way and that. We may survive, but not without getting a little seasick.

What do you want? Is relaxation what you crave, or do you want to spend the season on some grand adventure? Perhaps your ideal lies somewhere in the middle – time for fun followed by time for renewal.

Be Bold

Now that you’ve decided what you want, it’s time to let the people you love know. Even if the practice has always been to do it a particular way, this is your year of moving toward a more meaningful holiday experience. That can’t happen unless you’re brave enough to share your mental image of what that season looks like.

Be Realistic

Your brother-in-law is probably still going to tell stale jokes, your niece may be a brat on roller skates, and the family vegetarian may lose his ever-lovin’ mind at the sight of a roasted turkey. This is your holiday. Your happiness is not dependent upon the behavior of anyone else. Just remember that any time there is more than one person in a room, someone may be acting the fool.

Stop on a regular basis to remind yourself of what it is you’re celebrating. You have determined what this holiday season means to you and what you hope to gain from it. No one has the power to take that away from you.

Be Mindful

Living in the moment is a powerful thing. It means that you’re not comparing this year to past holidays and you’re not concerned about what next year is going to look like. In fact, being mindful of this precise moment will allow you to fully experience the season in a way that involves body and soul. Take the time to imprint this rarified moment on your heart, to appreciate the uniqueness of your particular situation.

When we strip away the commercialism and our own anxieties, we can fully appreciate the holiday season for what it is – an opportunity to celebrate that which means most to us.

2 Responses...

Anonymous says:
November 7, 2013 at 8:34 AM
Nicely said, Dana!
Parker A. says:
December 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Love this article. I think it's what most need to keep in mind throughout the year, but especially at this time of year. Thanks
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