As the year winds down and we all busy ourselves with last-minute affairs, the inevitable question comes up: “How are you spending the holidays?” Often, not always, but often people will say, “Christmas is actually pretty stressful”, or “I don’t really like Christmas all that much”. I can understand the sentiment; Christmas is a heavily commercialized holiday, and while there has always been a strong consumerist bend to it, that tendency has only increased in my lifetime. The plastic nature of the Christmas season can be awfully grating. And honestly, there are so many terrible modern renditions of classic Christmas songs that it can all get a little bit tedious. But these are only the superficial trappings of a celebratory affair that is about much more than the latest gadgets or women in skimpy elf outfits softly cooing about Santa and mistletoes. The Christmas spirit is a powerful force that we should all (that is all of us that celebrate it) strive to unearth in ourselves, because it serves as a reminder of what is truly important in life.
The manic life that we all live can also play a part in the joylessness of Christmas. I’ve written about the hedonic treadmill, and how we live as if we’re hamsters running in place, never actually getting anywhere. The grinding nature of this lifestyle absolutely takes a physical and emotional toll on us. Without pausing to take note of what is truly important in life, then it is easy for things to become shallow and meaningless. That feeling of superficiality reflects our internal life, which has very likely been depleted by constant struggle and frustration. To paraphrase Milton Erickson, we must make our own joy in life. And if you’re serious about making your own happiness, particularly during this Christmas season, then read on as I have prepared a great bunch of arguments for this week’s blog that will surely exorcise your inner Grinch.
A few simple suggestions…
Here are three reasons to get into the Christmas Spirit:
- It only comes once a year.
- It’s about family.
- It’ll give you some perspective. 1. It only comes once a year.
Thanks to the weather and absence of sunlight, December can be a pretty depressing time of the year – it’s not called seasonal affect disorder for no reason. But with the lights, the music, the food, the Christmas season injects some much-needed hope, beauty, and joy into an otherwise dismal time of the year. And since it only happens once a year, there’s a touch of novelty to it as well. It’s an event, and a powerful one at that. The other eleven months of the year are filled with manic busyness, and frankly, a focus on the ego and the material. For one month out of the year, we focus on what matters the most in life – family and the spiritual. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with material goods or the individual ego but focusing on them exclusively can be rather exhausting (and feed into some of our worst tendencies). By focusing on the timeless goods of life (love, family, God) we get a respite from the craziness of life all while getting in touch with what is truly meaningful about life.
2. It’s about family.
I touched on this in the last paragraph, but I’ll build on it here. Especially for those of us who are spread out around the country, it’s easy to lose touch with one another. But it’s important to remember what matters most in life – each other. We’re not going to be here forever, and as time goes by that fact becomes even more explicit. During Christmas, we get together and reminisce about the years gone by and share in the familial love that is the heart of a happy life. Ultimately the measure of one’s life isn’t how high up the corporate ladder they got, how valuable their stocks are, whether they have a bunch of letters at the end of their name or anything like that, it’s how close you are to your family. Whether you’re riding high or staring up from the gutter, they’re the only people who will always be there for you. Christmas is in part, a celebration of that fact.
3. It’ll give you some perspective.
As I said before, we spend most of the year thinking about ourselves, our goals, and the things we want. If we stay in this mode of being, it can become all consuming and potentially even harm our relationship to ourselves and others. Christmas is partly a celebration of what we have; it’s a season of gratitude. We always want more. We think we deserve more. And perhaps we do. But the need for more is never-ending. It is easy to lock ourselves into a self-destructive cycle of seeking ever greater sources of satisfaction. But there can never be any true and lasting fulfillment from this mode of being. True happiness and satisfaction – real peace of mind – comes from recognizing that possessing more does not make us greater. Achieving at a higher level does not make us better people. And whether we are the greatest winners or the lowest losers, our family will never abandon us. Our loved ones will never give up on us. As long as we are willing to give our best effort, to learn and to self-reflect, we will never lose the love and respect of our loved ones and peers. And as long as we are willing to take time with those we cherish, we will always have their love and admiration. Christmas helps us to put life into perspective and understand what it truly takes to be happy in life: work, love, and respect. If we honor these three maxims, we will have a rich and plentiful life – no matter what else happens.
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