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Make Time for Joy
(Tuesday, December 9th, 2014)

Make Time for Joy This Holiday Season

I woke up yesterday with an endless to-do list running through my head. I am a to-do list kind-of-gal and I love the high I get from accomplishing my goals and checking things off my list. I started my day as I normally do with my morning meditation, followed by some reading and journaling, then off to the gym for my workout. I returned from the gym, showered and went to work on my list. While sitting at my desk that afternoon I saw the neighbors across the street putting up their Christmas lights and that made me think…Hmmmm, I have so much to do over the next few weeks, when am I going to put up my Christmas lights? I felt the panic set in and my body tensed up. I looked at my calendar and the loaded schedule suffocated me. How am I going to get it all done? was all I could think of.

This is when I stopped myself dead in my tracks and asked these questions: If I got nothing accomplished today, what would happen? What if I never accomplished anything again? Would the world stop spinning? Would people stop loving me? The answer to the last two questions, is of course, no. I made a decision right there and then that my primary goal for this December was to enjoy the season and not to attack my goal list. I want to focus on being present, savoring the season and making time for the holiday traditions I love. My running to-do list and goals can wait until January.

Being that I am a self-admitted To-Do List Junkie, this is not always easy for me. Years ago, I thought I had to bake five kinds of cookies, I had to send a creative holiday card with a personal message, I had to make a Gingerbread House, I had to wrap my gifts uniquely, I had to spend a certain amount of money on each person, I had to… blah, blah, blah, you fill in the blank. For the first time in my life I had to start a NOT DOING List. This is a list of things I would stop doing in order to make time for the things I loved. My suggestion is that you look at your choices and then listen to how they make your body feel. Just because you have hosted a holiday party for the past three years, doesn’t mean you have to host a party this year. If the thought of having a party fills you with joy and you love the process, then go for it. If it fills you with dread, tension and anxiety and you are doing it because you think it is expected, drop it. Don’t do anything this season that doesn’t bring you joy.

Here are some of my suggestions for enjoying the season:

DON’T SEND HOLIDAY CARDS
Are you shocked? I stopped sending them years ago and it has freed up so much time. I write cards to the people I love all year long, so I don’t feel the need to send a card during the holidays. If you love the tradition by all means, keep it going. If you need to send cards for business, I get it. Just be sure you are enjoying the process and not doing it because you feel you have to. PS – Don’t be offended if someone stops sending you a card. Life is too short for this kind of pettiness.

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOUR NEIGHBOR
Comparison is the thief of happiness. Once I started to compare myself to my neighbors who had their Christmas decorations up already, I started to feel pressure. This goes for how you do or don’t decorate your house for the season, to the gifts you buy, to the food you serve. When you compare yourself to someone else it either makes you feel better than them or less than them. Either way, it serves no purpose and robs you of your joy. Happiness is not a competition.

SHOP SENSIBLY
I wish I could have counted how many emails I received during the Black Friday Shopping weekend from retailers telling me that time was running out for whatever they were selling! UGH! I didn’t open one and trashed them all. This may not be the most economic way to shop, but there is always a deal, a sale or a coupon when I need it. You need to realize that the marketer’s job is to get you to act and to buy and they will do this any way they can. Shop within a budget and try to be thoughtful and not impulsive with your purchases.

LIMIT YOUR BAKING TO DOABLE QUANTITIES
I used to love the idea of filling a platter with a multitude of different cookies. So in the past I would spend hours and hours in the kitchen baking all kinds of cookies until my back was so sore I couldn’t stand it. A few years ago I decided to pick two of my favorite kinds of cookies and bake only them. This is so much easier and a lot less stressful. I still get to share my homemade treats with friends and family, and I don’t think they have even noticed that I stopped making a large variety.

MAKE TIME TO SEE THE LIGHTS
When I was a child my parents always picked one night in December to load us all up in the car and drive around and look at all the pretty Christmas lights. While we did this we sang Christmas Carols at the top of our lungs, and it left me with so many great memories. When I was first married we carried on this tradition for a few years and then we got busy and stopped doing it. I have recently revived the tradition and plan to keep it going.

WRITE LETTERS OF GRATITUDE
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make someones day. The best gifts I have received over the years have been heartfelt letters and cards from friends and family. I can’t tell you what someone gave me as a gift last year, but if they wrote me a letter or a heartfelt card, I have save it and it means the world to me.

WORKOUT AND EAT SENSIBLY
I know! I know! Cookies and cocktails are everywhere. Just be sure to drink and eat in moderation. Make it your goal to maintain your weight during the holidays, not pack on the pounds. Remember it is not like you will never eat another cookie or piece of pie again. And don’t forget to keep up your workouts. You will be glad you did.

Lastly spend time counting your blessings and being grateful. Happy people are grateful people. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, busy and wondering how you will get it all done….look for something to give up and let it fall off your list. The world will go on and people will still love you. Being there for loved ones is much more important than checking items off a list.

My wish for you is that you MAKE this your merriest year ever!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! Happy Happy!

Love & Happiness,

Michele Phillips