Monday, 18 December 2017
How to do Christmas
19th December 2017
HOW TO DO CHRISTMAS.
Christmas is undoubtedly the most stressful time for people. Usually the stress is evident in people about a month before. But this year it seemed to start around the beginning of October. This led me to ponder on why there is so much stress at time which should be a time of joy and peace and goodwill as the many Christmas cards re-iterate. I do not think that these are primarily religious concepts. They are the core of psychological well being. Without joy peace and a good attitude towards ourselves and others (a reasonable definition of goodwill) we are not going to be happy.
Being happy is underrated. It is vital to well being, it is not a “trap” and it is available. Happiness is a state of mind. Everything is a mindset. If you are not happy, change your mindset. I am going to venture a working definition of happiness: it means “keeping your head when all around you are losing theirs” (borrowed from If by Rudyard Kipling). It means “steady she goes” (a sailing term) when the storms of life come, and they will come. It means being able to see the bigger picture and not get distracted by details. I read this back in the 70’s somewhere: “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it is all small stuff.)” Whatever “it” is, will it matter in a week a month a year or in 5 minutes? Happiness is the result of an inner security that allows us to keep steady in the face of life’s many and inevitable challenges.
So what about Christmas? Why aren’t people happy at Christmas? Two things come to mind: money and family. Money first. People often spend too much money at Christmas. They max out their credit cards. They buy Christmas everything: napkins, toothpicks (red)
plates presents food - all expensive. But it is not the cost of the present that makes is important. It is the thoughtfulness and appropriateness of the present. If people only gauge the present by how much it cost, don’t give them anything. The greatest gift we can give is ourselves. This may be seen as a cliché but it is true nevertheless. We can give time energy and attention. In truth this is what people value the most from each other. You don’t have to spend large amounts of money on the people who really care about you if you don’t have it to spend. And don’t spend large amounts of money on people who don’t care about you because they still won’t care about you. As the Beatles said long ago: “Can’t buy me love….”
What about family? The one thing that I notice which disturbs people the most about Christmas is that it will be a time of getting together with family members. Some of these they do not want to be with. It is unrealistic to expect that if you are going to spend time with people you don’t like and hardly see the rest of the year that you are going to enjoy their company. And alcohol is a volatile drug. It is a dis-inhibitor meaning it releases impulses (usually better not released) which when we are sober we may keep a lid on. These impulses include sexuality (so watch those office Christmas parties; you will have to face all those people again after Christmas). And even more so: aggression. A family gathering where there will almost certainly be alcohol and where there are people who don’t really like each other, drinking too much and eating too much and confined together for many hours in the same place, is a recipe for trouble.
So how can we maximise the chances of having a good time at Christmas? One of the things I say to people is: you create your own Christmas. They now have these machines at a well-known fast food outlet where you can create your own burgers. (I haven’t mastered them yet!). But it is the same with Christmas. Do what you want to do and do it with the people you want to do it with and no one else.
People use the word “have to” too loosely. I like to say there are only 3 things we have to do: eat, breathe and as the Americans politely say “Use the bathroom”. And if we decide to go on a hunger strike we don’t have to eat. Everything else is a choice: a want not a need. Yes, there are consequences to our choices, but we do have choices. We make our own schedules and we create our own Christmas experiences. If you are not happy with your Christmas routine – do something different. One thing you can do is go away for Christmas! Take your family, stay at a nice resort! This could be a marvellous way to spend Christmas.
Finally how do you get happy not just at Christmas but for the whole of the year. I will write more on this another time. But a vital key is this: Do more of what you are passionate about and less of what you hate. Wishing you all a Christmas for 2017 like you have never had and always wanted.