I love the holidays and always look forward to the time with family and friends; the smells, the decorations, the gatherings, the tree, and of course, the gift-giving. In my mind, I could see happy friends and family enjoying a cozy and relaxing time together surrounded by the ambiance and spirit of the season; perfect pictures to be proud of.
However, what I had in my mind seldom translated to real-life; behind the few “perfect” photos was a mountain of stress, agitation, and exhaustion. It took many years and a lot of soul-searching to let go of my “perfect” holiday vision to reach what is now an authentic warm, and enjoyable holiday season.
Do you have a holiday memory that puts a smile on your face? What do you remember about it? If I had to guess, I would say that you recall your feelings and the ones you shared those moments with. I bet you don’t remember if the table was perfectly set, the kitchen was polished to perfection, or if every nook, cranny, staircase, door, and bathroom were adorned in coordinated picture-perfect holiday decorations.
You don’t remember because those things do not infuse the emotions that put a smile on your face when you invoke the memory.
When we identify what is truly important, we can focus on the things that cultivate a peaceful and connecting holiday time. Once my family realized that we created a framework that keeps us happy, grounded, and connected. I think of it as a recipe, and just like the best basic recipe of your favorite cookie, it stays true and never disappoints.
Here is the basic recipe for an authentic, joyful, connecting holiday experience.
- Start with friends, family, significant others, and positive relationships.
- Season with feelings of love, connection, gratitude, appreciation, joy, and belonging.
- Add a dash of smiles, humor, laughter, self-love, acceptance, and empathy.
- Fold in memory-making activities and connecting events.
- Pour into a home, an event, or a gathering.
- Garnish with a bit of greenery and nature.
- Repeat and enjoy.
In conclusion, practice cultivating a peaceful, authentic, and connected holiday time by being intentional about slowing down. Create memories with your family by being present. Say no to activities, people, and events that deplete and overwhelm you.
Breathe, slow down and take into account the needs of each family member. Involve all members of the family in preparations and let go of expectations of perfection and criticism. Openly practice appreciation, gratitude and invest in the power of humor. When things don’t go your way invoke the power of humor. It’s the season of joy, so practice joy and find it in your everyday.
Marina Blalock AMFT