As we draw to the close of the year, a potent combination of excitement, melancholy, happiness and in some cases even depression can mar the festive season. We find ourselves rushing around preparing for Christmas (for those who celebrate), planning family holidays and just winding down what could have been an incredibly trying year. This is when feeling overwhelmed is common and why we all need to be able to take a step back, breathe and go with the flow.
This is easier said than done, obviously! How many times have we given that advice to someone knowing letting go in any sense is incredibly difficult?
This is where mindfulness plays such an important role. Some of you may think that’s it all hippie granola-munching hogwash, but even the most hardened disbelievers have succumbed. And if you have had a tough year and want to enter the new one with a clean slate, Christmas (or any other festive season for that matter) is a great time to make the small changes that will encourage you to have a better, less stressful year ahead.
Mindfulness is actually something that should come quite naturally to us. It is about living in the moment and not getting pulled back by the past or thinking about the future. More importantly, particularly in this age of overt materialism, it is about being in tune with your thoughts and feelings, and that of those around you.
Living In A Material World.
A basic example of how we have become increasingly materialistic is to observe how as each generation comes to be, the art of gifting has become a battle of who does it better. For children, it’s all about the gadgets and electronic devices. Where once a five-year-old would have been so happy with a toy train set or building blocks, now more often than not, an electronic device is on the wish list.
Christmas should be a time of joy when families get together, catch up, reminisce and look forward to the start of a new year. Instead we find ourselves rushing around trying to get the most impressive gifts, cooking the perfect meal and attending the most parties. What happened to writing cards, getting the children to make gifts (they may not look great, but that’s not the point!) and just relaxing during the holiday season?
Pope Francis made a very frank statement during his Christmas mass in 2016 – “Christmas has been held hostage by materialism.” Religion aside, that single sentence applies to so many aspects of modern life. We are bombarded by calls to buy more and supposedly improve our lives by spending more, and yet we as a generation are probably the most unfulfilled. Statistics have shown that during the celebrations like Christmas, the average family in the US spends up to USD900 just on presents!
What Can We Do To Be Happy Beyond The Materialism?
Meaningful, creative gifts.
Make it a point to get or even make thoughtful gifts, e.g. a photo album documenting a memorable holiday. Or get your children to create a painting and get it framed. Getting a loved one a subscription to their favourite magazine or even a donation to a charity they support is much more rewarding than the latest gadget.
Retaining and creating new family traditions.
Preparing the celebratory meal together, watching your favourite holiday movie, playing board games or indulging in an activity like going to the beach or park brings the family together.
Make it a point to think of those less fortunate than you. NGOs and charities always have wish lists and if you cannot contribute financially, volunteer your time. Doing this as a family will instil a sense of giving back in your children which will continue into adulthood.
It may seem easier to be materialistic than to make the effort to do the above, but once you start, you will realise that simplifying life, getting creative and spending quality time with family and friends is so much more fun than the frenzy of finding the right gift and planning elaborate events.
Try it this year. Put away the gadgets (keep social media documentation to a minimum), take it easy, be grateful for what you have and we can guarantee you will have a great time!