Let the festivities begin!
The run up to Christmas can be frantic, with food to prepare, presents to buy and family to host. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what makes Christmas so special. This year take a breath, take stock and think how the festive season can inspire you to lead a better, more meaningful life, all year round.
The importance of traditions and rituals
Everyday life is stressful and full of uncertainty. Having a special time of the year when we know exactly what to do, the way we’ve always done it, provides a comfortable sense of structure, control and stability. From putting up the tree at the beginning of December and singing carols, to special festive food and socialising, everyone has their familiar Christmas rituals and traditions. But rituals and traditions can be beneficial all year round. Simply a walk every Sunday or family dinner on Fridays can create the structure we all crave. Traditions help bond us to those we love. They lend a certain spirit that nurtures the family connection and give us a sense of belonging.
The importance of loved ones
Christmas traditions are great opportunities to reconnect with the people we love. When we prepare Christmas food for example, the family spends long hours in the kitchen and sharing a meal together brings the entire family together around the table and smoothes the way for conversation and connection. With this year being a rather special one, we might connect in different ways. But what about preparing a dinner while talking to your family on Zoom? Connecting with loved ones both online and offline boosts our happiness.
Exchanging presents plays a crucial role in developing reciprocal relationships. Even the humdrum act of writing Christmas cards is a way to reconnect and stay in touch with people we don’t see very often. These connections are welcome at any time of year – there’s never a bad time to send a simple text message, email or gift reminding someone what they mean to you, and a party or weekend meet-up is always well received. These actions just need someone to organise them!
The importance of generosity
For many, the season of goodwill seems to bring out the worst in many people's experience. Loneliness feels more lonely. Alcoholism seems to be more obvious. Domestic tensions can spiral. Health problems are exacerbated when routine changes. Christmas however, more than any other time of year, brings out the altruism in each of us. Consider making a donation to charity or volunteer if there is a cause close to your heart. Or simply reach out to a neighbour in need. It’s a win-win situation, not just at Christmas: Many research studies have shown that altruism is good for the giver's physical and mental health.
The importance of stillness
In many cultures Christmas and New Year are public holidays, one of the only times of the year when the whole nation puts work to one side for an extended period. Christmas allows people to be bored, free from the distractions of normal work days, and concentrate on the important things in life. We put down the smartphone and talk. A lesson each of us could surely take into normal life.
The importance of spirituality
Regardless of your religion or spiritual beliefs, there is no doubt that Christmas encourages us to think spiritually: whether about a force greater than ourselves or simply the message of peace and goodwill to all men.
A spiritual perspective on life has been shown to help people to stay mentally strong in negative times, such as when going through exams, facing grief from the death of a loved one, or handling setbacks in a career. When we go through rough patches in our lives, spirituality can help us to see the bigger picture.
How can we embrace the spirit of Christmas all year round?
- Embrace traditions and rituals, but ensure that they are meaningful to you and your family. The Sunday walk, the book before bed, the fortnightly trip to the library all count as the traditions which create structure and certainty in our lives. If you don’t have any, create some!
- Surround yourself with loved ones throughout the year. Create time and space for reconnections and take the time to organise meet-ups. Don’t wait to send the annual Christmas card, send a simple note letting someone know you are thinking of them.
- Be kind to those less fortunate than yourself. Perhaps use Christmas as a way to start a new charitable initiative or regular volunteering task.
- Embrace stillness. Our lives are normally highly scheduled. Enjoy the occasional weekend where there is nothing in the calendar.
- Practice spirituality where you can: this might be through 30 minutes of daily meditation, mindfulness or spiritual readings. Just taking the time to think about issues larger than ourselves helps us to stay mentally strong.