everyday success


Do You Do the Things You Love Doing?

Name five things that you do that are your most favorite things to do.  Whether big or little, what do you most like to do?   Could be after school time with your kids.  Could be your annual mountain climbing conquest.  Could be playing the piano or teaching someone to read or weekends at your lake house or going to lunch with your best friend.  It could be your work but here we’re really talking about whatever brings inner satisfaction.

Your five favorite things that you do

It may take a bit of time for you to remember them all.  The very moment you start to name favorite things, more are going to come racing to mind.  You’ll be in your shower tomorrow morning and suddenly you’ll say to yourself, ‘I remember! I love decorating for the seasons, of course for Christmas but also Thanksgiving and Halloween and St. Paddy’s day and all of them.’  That goes on your favorite things you do list.

Have a bit of fun as you remember all your favorites.  Likely your list is already far more than five.  Our brains just love going to the things we most enjoy so let your mind explore and generate your list of favorite things you do. 

Once you’ve remembered all the things you love doing and you’ve narrowed your list to your top five, think about how often you do what you most love to do.  Look at each of your favorites and remember when you last did them.  Some of us keep their favorites in their everyday life – if you regularly do what you love doing, then congratulate yourself and keep on doing what you love to do.

On the other hand, some of us get so caught up with the must-do’s that their favorite things fall off their daily or weekly or even monthly list.  It takes not time to lose track of them altogether.  If your everyday has become so full, so intense that you no longer include whatever it is you most love doing, then it is time to stop, look at what you are doing and make a plan. 

Why don’t you do the things you love to do?

But first, before the planning, ask yourself what caused you to stop doing what you love to do.  Could be everyday busyness or it could be weariness.  Life today can be so intense that we get weary and it feels as if we’re dissatisfied.  In part, dissatisfaction can be the result of not doing what you love to do, making life more like a treadmill and less the lives we love. 

Every day we’re bombarded by an endless stream of stuff – whether those Twitter, InstaGram or FaceBook posts or new podcasts or breaking news or the laundry list of must-do’s, we can get to a place of seeming overwhelm and just stop doing the stuff we actually like.

If you’re there, feeling maxed out while not actually getting to do what it is you love doing, take a mental moment to make a plan.  Identify what has kept you away – money, time or even just the blahs.  Maybe it’s as simple as there’s no one to do it with.

Only when you know what bumped your favorite things out of your life, can you take the steps to make a change.  Once you’ve identified the what and why for not doing what you love to do, then decide on the actions you’ll need to take to manage whatever is holding you back.  Make a list of those actions you’ll need to take, in other words, make a plan.

Now, it is so easy to make a plan but never actually make that plan happen.  To fix that, be sure your plan includes the steps you will take to make your plan happen.  Include every step you’ll need to take to bring your plan to life.  If you don’t know what to do, what actions to take, then your plan will likely not work.  So, to get to back to doing what you love, be sure your action plan has the step-by-steps.

Life is not a straight line

As you take each step on your plan, it’s likely you’ll make missteps, you may fall back on your old ways.  That’s very normal when you are making a change even one that means you’ll be back to doing the things you love.  If you stop taking your action, if slip-up, be kind to yourself.  Accept lapses for what they are and get back to your plan.

Best of all, be sure to congratulate yourself for each success on each step of your plan.  That’s right, your successes are accomplishing each step on your plan, one at a time.  Don’t complete one without acknowledging your success with your mental high-five or whatever other way you choose to say good job to yourself.

Your purpose here, to be doing what you love throughout your life.  Enjoy your life; appreciate your life.  Make your everyday one that counts for you.

A Path to Happiness, Health and a Good Night’s Rest

It sounds like one of those ads, improve your health, get better sleep and all you have to do is ….  Well, in this case, all you need to do is be grateful!   It’s as simple as that.  Gratitude can make the difference.

Over the past couple of decades, scientists have discovered that if you are regularly grateful for even a month or so, all these things will improve.

Best of all, the practice of gratitude is very easy.  The challenge, though, is to keep it going.  For some among us, it’s just natural, they are grateful to their core.  For the larger, less naturally grateful population, it takes some work.  But, who wouldn’t want to give it a try, to get to happier, healthier, and better rested?

How to make it work in your life? 

The answer is to tweak your daily gratitude routine in ways that make it work for you.  The easiest gratitude exercise is the daily list of three things for which you are grateful.  That works for some but not for everyone.  We are not all journaling people so daily entries of the three things may never become habit. 

On the other hand, recording it on our phone or even asking Alexa to remember it for us, may make all the difference.  If you like the daily three things for which you are grateful, look at enlisting technology to help you out.  That way, you can even replay and review, to hear how you are changing and growing over time.

If you are a commuter or a runner or have a few minutes of otherwise available mental space each day, open your head and your heart to experience gratitude.  You may choose to appreciate your surroundings or the special people in your life.  Whether it is a tree that is starting to bud, replaying your team’s successes or the joy your children bring to you, experiencing gratitude happens not just in your head but also in your heart.  Here, in fact, you are savoring an experience in a way that you can replay over and over again. 

Rather than savoring or writing, you may be a person of action.  Have you told your wife, your kids, your parents how much you love them – not just the ‘love you’ as you come and go but a fuller expression of your love.  Could be you even give them a token of your love.  Maybe, you’ll visit someone for whom you are grateful.  Or, in place of a visit, maybe send a note or text or photo.  Acting on your heartfelt gratitude is a gift of yourself to another; it changes you and it changes the person whom you’ve thanked.

The key to making gratitude work for your life is to adapt a practice to fit your ways.  When you make gratitude a regular practice in your life, you are taking a step to living your days with zest and happiness. 

Checking In on Yourself

Twelve weeks from today is New Years’ Day 2018!  It’s hard to imagine that 2017 is almost behind us but I’m afraid it is – almost behind us.  We’re in the last quarter of the year and we’re racing towards the holidays.  Halloween is one thing, but in fewer than 7 weeks, it will be Thanksgiving and you know what happens after that.  In what feels like minutes, it will be Christmas and Hanukkah and a week later, we’re celebrating the start of the New Year.

It feels as if 2017 raced right by.  Before we know it, we’ll be thinking New Year goals and resolutions.  But what about this year’s?  Now is a very good time to look at 2017.  Has it been a good year for you?  A momentous year?  Or, have you encountered bumps in your road?  Take a moment to look behind and ask yourself:

What were the highlights of this year?  What will you remember forever from this year?  Did you meet a new friend, start a new job, have a new child or grandchild?  Could be you traveled or learned something new.  

As you think of the good parts, make note of each and remember to congratulate yourself for the role you played in making each of them happen, in making it a good year for you.

What were your challenges?  Some years may be better than others so, did you run into anything that made this year more difficult?  How are you managing?  Do you have the help you need to get you through?  Have you reached  out to others so you don’t have to manage alone?

There are so many other ways to look at your 2017 experience, here are a few more.

  • Goals  Did you start the year with goals you wanted to happen?  Did they happen?  If not, is there anything you can do in the weeks ahead to fix that?
  • Fun  Did you have fun or happy times during the year?  Did you make sure you smiled – and found things to smile about? 
  • Family & Friends  Our relationships make an immense difference in life.  What changed, either favorably or not, in your closest relationships?  What might you do in the next twelve weeks to strengthen or solidify these, especially with the holidays in mind?
  • Growth, Hobbies  It may look as if I’ve returned to the idea of having fun and you wouldn’t be wrong.  As you look back and then ahead to the remainder of the year, those things you do that are pure expressions of you – whether gardening or golf, hiking or learning a language – give us a deep and needed satisfaction.
  • Health  Checking up on your health is every bit as important as exercise and diet.  Do have need to check with your doctor, your dentist or anyone else?  How often do we mean to do these details but somehow our intense schedule gets in the way?  Remember you and your health!
  • Work and Money  What did you plan for your work this year?  Did it happen and, if not, what can you do between now and 1/1/18?  Whether we love our work or it is a means to an end, it does require your thoughtful attention.
  • Love Life  When you are married, partnered or otherwise committed, do you take time for just the two of you?  Taking time with your partner is immensely important.  Now, as a woman who didn’t marry til 50, I can assure those of you who do not have a current love, there is so much in our lives that is deeply fulfilling.  Instead of a romantic date, do the things in life you love doing.  I just bring up love life and romance because so many people forget to take time for the relationship.

We’ve twelve weeks during which we can add our own final spin on our year.  Plus, we’ll kick off our new year in strength.  May these be good weeks for you!

Success is Not Final

Success is not final, failure is not final: it is the courage to go on that counts.  Winston Churchill

It sounds so easy, you work hard and build your life, you go to school and establish a career, you meet your partner, buy your home and create a family.  Right?  Easy-peasy.  But then what, if you do all these things, is the rest of life just coasting?  What do you do over all those years?  Yes, you raise your kids, but that’s twenty years and then they’re off. 

It turns out that those early tasks are your training ground.  You are making habits that will serve you for your lifetime, habits of working to goals and making them happen.

It sounds so easy but things happen.  Companies get sold or they change their plans and let people go – not because the people weren’t good but because they were no longer part of the plan.  Sometimes we discover that we don’t even like our chosen career.  Or, marriages can fall apart.  Illness can happen.

Suddenly what seemed like a good life, one easily thought of as a successful life, can turn around. It can feel as if you’re veering of the road but you are not.  The thing that is so interesting about life is that it is not a straight line to nirvana.  There will likely be bumps but never, no never, think of them as failure.  It’s simply a time to reassess, roll up your sleeves and get to it.  It takes courage and it takes willingness to turn it around.

Another favorite quote comes from Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, “If one does not master one’s circumstances, then she is bound to be mastered by them.”  When things go bump, it’s time to break out the courage and get on with it.

On the other hand, life doesn’t always take off at the beginning.  That’s terrible because it isn’t building your confidence in your success.  Still, it is not a lifelong sentence, frustration is not forever.  Remember to seek out a few people you admire and with them, develop a plan. Check in with them on your progress, make yourself accountable to the plan.  It’s mastering your circumstance and finding your success, your everyday success.

Some Days, Life Feels Too Fast

You are not alone in thinking that the world is moving oh, so quickly.  It is.  But it’s not just the pace of life today, it’s the high drama events that add to the intensity.  

Our phone beeps with incoming texts and tweets, emails and posts.  We waken to an intense schedule of work, to-do lists, ferrying the kids after school, managing the highs and lows of family and friends – all to the tune of incoming beeps and messages.  These are the things of our everyday lives.  Somedays it feels doable but other times it becomes too much.

This month, however, we’ve all sustained high drama moments with hurricanes ripping towns apart and leaving floods behind.  And, now, a mass murderer.  Even when we’re not the immediate victims of these horrific events, we feel them.  We want to act, to help, to smooth the path for those who’ve suffered.  Afterwards, we absorb what has happened.

It can be a high drama, fast-paced world which also means we each need to remember to take a moment for ourselves.  There are ways to calm the pressure that can build up inside us, the anxiety that results from feeling overwhelmed. 

Experience the moment.  To begin, stop the mental dialog that is running through your head.  We all do it, we plan dialogs, make lists, figure out dinner, plan the softball schedule.  Stop the dialog and bring your thoughts to the present moment.  You may choose to keep a favorite photo nearby to slow or settle your thoughts.  You may find taking a walk can bring calm, maybe even noticing the beauty of our world.

Gratitude.  While we hear this over and over, science has proved that a daily gratitude habit, grows one’s sense of well-being.  So, name the things that make your life good.

It’s not big things that return us to calm, a sense of normalcy and well-being; usually, it’s the small things.  Hugging babies.  Calling dear friends.  Working in your garden.  Listening to music or a hilarious podcast.  Moment by moment, we regain our equilibrium.

What have today’s happiness scientists learned?

That’s right, there are actually happiness scientists.  They spend their days and their lives working to find the formula – what do we need to do to be happy.  Are you curious what they’ve learned?

One important happiness scientist is Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This mother of four is a psychology professor and author of the best-seller, The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. 

In her decades of research, Dr. Lyubomirsky uncovered the source of happiness.  Her results are so instructive that it’s easy to apply her findings to our own lives.

10% of our happiness comes from circumstance.  This includes all the things that happen in our lives – the good, the bad and the indifferent.  On the upside, it’s meeting the love of our dreams, finding our perfect job, buying a home – all the good things of life.  On the downside, it’s the loss of a job, illness, the death of someone we love and other painful life experience. 

50% of our happiness comes from our genetics.  We’re born to it, our ancestors handed down what amounts to about half of our personal level of happiness.  Yes, if you wish, you can point to your Great Aunt Monica or Grandpa Ben – not just for the color of your eyes but also for a large part of your happiness.

40% of our happiness is our own to decide – it’s our own mind, our own habits and our own actions that determine that much of our happiness.

Are you surprised?  It’s natural to want to poke holes, to say, yeah, but she didn’t know about the car crash that changed my life or that huge amount of money coming my way – those are circumstances that will change everything. 

Well, not so fast.  There will always be circumstances that make us either super happy or super unhappy.  It’s the way the world works.  What we don’t think about when we’re on a high or a low is that, in time, we’ll return to our original happiness point, the point before the happy or sad event.  We go back to our normal.  We adapt to the facts of our lives.  Changes become our new normal.

The forty percent solution

We’re in charge.  It’s what we do with what we’ve got that makes the difference.  If we’re super tall, it’s unlikely we’ll be successful as a jockey but we might consider basketball.  On the other hand, super tallness doesn’t have to dictate what we will or won’t do.  Could be we’re a math whiz who is a great dancer and a fabulous cook. 

How we work with what we’ve got – the circumstances and the genetic disposition – is what will lead us to happiness and well-being.  It’s what we could call the forty percent solution.  Perhaps the most tantalizing outcome of Lyubomirsky’s research is the discovery that we are in charge of forty percent of our happiness. 

It all adds up.  The things we do, the things we say, the things we think along with all the things we don’t do add up – the sum of all these things makes a difference in our happiness, in our feeling of well-being.

Resource:  Lyubomirsky, Sonja.  The How of Happiness, A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.

New Year’s 2017 – Day 3

By now, you’ve likely decided where you’ll focus your energy in this year ahead.  Or, you’ve decided to pursue a resolution or goal.  To make this happen, to keep your promise to yourself, here are a couple of tips to help you on your journey.

  • Take your big goal and divide it into small, manageable chunks.  If you want 2016 to be the year of fitness but haven’t worked out in a while, try three 20-minute sessions a week for the first month and grow from there.  If you want to lose a total of 15-pounds, start with your focus on 5-pounds.  Once you’ve lost those 5, you’ll be proud and energized to take on another 5 whereas if you lost 5 and you still have 10 more to go, it may seem just too hard.
  • Congratulate your successes, encourage yourself if you slip.  That’s why small goals are so much more powerful – you get to congratulate yourself a whole lot and feel proud of what you’ve achieved.  Besides, smaller goals allow you to prove to yourself that you can do it, whatever you’ve decided ‘it’ is.
  • Plan for slippage.  Think about all the things that can get in your way of getting to your goal.  Decide how you will foil the demons that want to stand in the way of your success.  If a battle pursues inside your head with old habits trying to combat your new you, decide what you want to say to those old habits.  Plan for this.  Or, it could be a friend won’t be as encouraging as you’d expected; plan how to handle that.  Also, don’t be surprised when you encounter inertia – you just don’t want a salad tonight . . . or, you can’t face the gym today . . . or, you think, “I’m just too tired to go to that job fair”.  Making a change is a big decision and you will experience internal resistance.  Rather than let your mind and old habits win, decide how you will manage all the affronts to your New Year Goal.
  • Tackle one thing at a time.  Yes, you’ll likely be successful if you combine fitness and nutrition but your success will rest on taking on those small goals, not an earth-shifting massive goal.  On the other hand, if you want to focus on a new job, finding a new partner and making nutritional or fitness changes all at once, your chances of success are diminished.  Aside from the fact that our brain likes to keep things orderly, very few humans are able to make a lot of changes all at once.

Yesterday, on New Year Day 2, we discussed planning and action as the steps to your goal.  Today, on New Year Day 3, we’ve added a few success tips to get you to your goal.  Make 2016 your year of success.

New Year’s 2017 - Day Two

It’s the second day of your new year, have you decided what kind of year it will be for you?  Or, have you named some goals or resolutions?  If you’ve done either of these, then it’s time to make sure your promises to yourself really happen.                                                                                                                                                                                      

This is where it gets hard.  It’s easy to decide on something, it’s a lot harder to make that something happen.  Whether it’s physical fitness or finding a new romance, everything takes a plan.  You have an idea for the year-ahead but without a plan, it won’t happen.  You’ll need a plan and once you have a plan, you’ll need to take action. 

Here’s where lists come in.  What actions of yours will make your year-ahead, your goals or resolutions happen?  Open a memo page on your phone or take out a blank piece of paper.  Write down everything you might do to make your goal happen – what steps do you need to take to make it happen?  Write for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour.  Write til you’ve uncovered all the ways you can bring your goal to life.

If you are thinking fitness, you might list your favorite ways to exercise, the time of day you like to exercise, how much time it takes to do your favorite exercises and how many days a week you want to work -out.  You might even make an exercise calendar for the next two weeks.   Could be you’ll want to add a few nutrition ideas.  Write out every action you can think of that will improve your fitness. 

Don’t forget to plan for your lazy days, the ones where you don’t want to make the effort.  Before you even start, have a plan for inner resistance, the desire to chuck the whole idea.  Figure out what will make you get to work and get you to your goal.

If you’d like to meet a romantic partner in the year ahead, remember that organizations are a great way to meet new people.   Add friends who like to fix people up to your list. 

While making the list, don’t forget to plan your conversations with new people.  That’s right, if you join a sailing club for their great single’s events, will your conversation include sailing stories?  If you ask a film-buff for fix-up suggestions, be prepared for the possibility of meeting others who love the cinema.  Write down all the actions you could take that would lead to meeting a possible romantic partner and include the dialog.  Build your plan for your success.

It takes planning and then action.  Once you’ve made your plan, then you’ll put that plan into action.  Today, on the second day of the year, write your plan describing the actions you will take to make the year-ahead the one you choose it to be.

What Kind of Year Do You Want it to Be?

To begin, happy New Year!

On this first day of the year, many of us get into the list thing – making promises to ourselves for the year ahead.  Usually our promises require that we make a change – for some of us big a change, for others of us smaller, baby step kinds of change.  While we call these resolutions, really, they are commitments we make to ourselves.

Another way to start your year is to name the kind of year you’d like it to be.  Could be you’ll name it the year of nutrition or the year of healthier habits or the year of your best painting ever or the year of planting, maybe even the year of planning.

Could be you’d like to name it the new job year or the energetic year or the year of bliss.  It may be you’d like the year ahead to be your year of nurturing relationships.  Possibly, you want to do something that honors something you value and you name your year accordingly.

What do you want to do with your 365 days ahead?  Instead of making a list of change, think of your life just a bit differently and begin by naming your year ahead.

In Your Imagination, You Are Throwing a Dinner Party

For a few moments, let your imagination run free.  You are going to throw a dinner party and you can invite anyone in the entire world – anyone whom you’d like to spend time with. 

Who Would You Invite?

You might start by dreaming up the categories of people you’d like to invite.   Will you invite friends?  Family?  Artists?  Actors?  Political leaders?  Religious leaders?  Celebrities?  Athletes?  Maybe you’ll combine categories. 

Will you want it to be an intimate dinner for two or a party of four or eight . . . maybe even more? 

Now, to add a bit of zing, you may decide to only include the people you most admire . . . living or dead.  That’s right, you might open your gathering up to include people who came before.  If you do that, you might consider Christ, Cleopatra or Johnny Carson. 

What Will You Serve?

You are hosting the event, what will it be like?  What will your guests experience?  How will it be memorable?  Will it mostly be conversation with just a bite to eat or will you create a fabulous meal?  Will you play games?  What about the music?

And, we certainly can’t forget, what will you wear?  Will it be something special so everyone recognizes you as the host?  Or, will you wear something to blend in?

What Will You Talk About?

There’s a reason for your choice of guests, what is that reason?  Your reasons may even become a part of the conversation.  Do you have questions for the people you plan to invite?  What do you want to know at the end of the event that you didn’t at its start? 

How will you turn the conversation so your desired subjects are included?  Will you kick everything off with a welcoming few words?

Time to Say Goodbye

Will you know when it’s time to say goodbye?  How will you feel at the end of your time together?  What will your dinner party have done for you?  What will it have done for your guests?  What will they be saying at the time of their departure?

In the end

In the end, you may wonder why on earth we’d go through this kind of an exercise.  Not only is it a pleasing mental exercise, it’s also illuminating.  It tells you about you; it fills in some of the details of what makes you happy.

Are You Having Fun?

Have you run, skipped or jumped today?  What about a joke, have you told a joke?  At the least, have you smiled broadly, one of those big smiles that you can feel throughout your body? 

A moment of fun lightens the spirit.  It releases the tension.  It dispenses with the angst.  It gives you a moment of relief and relaxation.  It even reminds us that life is to be enjoyed.

It’s so easy to get into our minds, to list the day’s actions, to follow the routine in our head.  We can even start our exercise – which should be pleasing if not fun – counting out our plan for the work-out rather than enjoying the great sensations of movement.

Speaking of movement, have you danced today?  Even just a little wiggle to a great piece of music can lighten our heart.  Go for it, have a bit of fun today! 

Making Today a Success

What does it take to make it a great day for you?  What happens in a day when, at its end, you think, this was a success?

A day’s success is different than a lifetime’s success.  A lifetime is loaded with ways to measure success.  A day, those 24 little hours, are usually not quite so huge or complex.  That’s not to say that a day might not be momentous.  We have plenty of big days in our lives – graduations, weddings, meeting the one person we’ll love, job offers, the birth of a child and on and on. 

There are days that are significant but that’s not what we’re about today.  Today we’re thinking about your everyday, the days that are your more usual kinds of days.  What makes those days successful for you?  It’s a great practice to use today’s good and not so good events as a guide for tomorrow.

To get to daily success, though, means you’ll name the things you do each day that bring positive results and a sense of satisfaction.  Those are the things you make a practice, those are the things that become habit.

Conversely, make note of the things in your day that have a negative outcome or just plain don’t feel good.  Those are the things you’ll want to stop.

“There is no beginning too small.”  Those wise words of Thoreau’s prove themselves true over and over again.  My friend, Betty, while doing chemo, viewed her success in small chunks – we called it her “making it to lunch” approach to each day.  We looked at the events of her every day, we broke her day into small segments and that helped her confront adversity.

A day of success doesn’t just happen; instead, a day of success is yours to create.  A day of success is a source of happiness.

A Spot of Winter Cheer

Will this winter ever end?  Where are you on that question?  Right now, it’s 16 degrees at two in the afternoon and it’s snowing.  That should give you a sense of where I am on the subject.  We’ve done enough of the slog through slosh.  It’s time to put the boots away.  It’s time for a warm sun and the brilliance of spring flowers. 

Spring Arrives  in Three Weeks

That’s right; at about Noon on March 20, we’ll reach spring.  But, of course, that’s in name only.  Until those buds pop through the earth, until tulips populate our world, until then it’s really still winter.

What to do?  To begin, remember your smile.  Have you ever noticed that when you just plain smile, your body feels a bit easier?  It’s a simple act, to smile but it does lighten our heart.

Share your smile with the people in your life.  When you enter a room, when you pick up the phone, have your smile ready.  People will respond warmly and suddenly you’ll realize that your spirit is Spring-like even if the sky’s still grey and the temp below freezing.

Buy flowers.  Wear colorful clothing.  Maybe even buy a spring outfit.  Tell jokes.  Walk the mall if you can’t get outside.  Put a “spring” in your step.  Make a lemon meringue pie or a fruit salad.  Keep smiling even when another inch is on its way.  Laugh a lot.  Plan your garden.  Plan your summer vacation. 

As spring draws near, remember to celebrate the signs of new life, the leaf buds, the longer days, the flowers.  Spring is a time of hope; let’s hope it comes quickly!

Besting Holiday Blues

It’s one of the cheeriest times of the year - but not for everyone.  Some among us have to work at lifting their spirits especially when in the presence of manic happiness.

In Holiday Delights, we looked at many of the ways the season can lift spirits.  Incredibly, that long list is not even a complete list.  Good cheer is the name of the game and that’s when less cheery sensations can also crop up.

It’s everywhere.  The world appears to have be decorated.  People are busily running to and fro.  They look merry, don’t they?  Parties and dinners and concerts and caroling.  It’s all meant to heighten the experience.  But it can also have the opposite effect. 

Instead of cheer, other seasonal emotions can be overwhelmed, stressed, sad and even depressed and depleted.  When others appear to be tripping the light fantastic, some of us are magnifying our personal flaws and worries. 

This is a time when some among us look at our lives and don’t see the life they’d once imagined.  This is a time when instead of counting the good, some are counting the negative.  Try as we might, it can be a time when joy is elusive.  Everyone else seems to have found it but we can’t.

First of all, remember, you are not alone.  I’ll repeat that, you are not alone when you experience holiday blues.  It is so prevalent that it’s the subject of this blog.  Those who are down-hearted can barely stand the fact of the holidays.  They’re just not in a jolly place and they don’t want to go there. 

A few thoughts:

Confide in a friend, in a professional counselor, in your pastor or spiritual guide.  Talking can help.  It’s important to express your feelings.  Plus, your friend, counselor or pastor offer helpful insight.  They might even help to change your perspective.  If nothing else, interaction with another who is caring helps.

Watch the sugar and alcohol.  An excess of sugar and alcohol can put our body chemistry into a tailspin that heightens sadness and depression.  It’s not the calories that matter here, it’s what sugar and alcohol can do to start or heighten an emotional downturn.

Get rest.  A good night’s sleep can calm even the most anxious.  Unfortunately, a down-hearted period can be accompanied with sleeplessness.  Follow all the healthy sleep rules.

Exercise.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say.  It’s 19 degrees and who wants to be out of doors?  Wherever you do it, work up a sweat and get your heart pumping.  You’ll sleep better.  Plus, regular exercise can actually help to dissipate an emotional low.

Count!  That’s right, be sure you count.  Find one or two things each morning that are good.  At bed time, ignore the failures of the day and instead look at whatever could be construed as good.  Don’t forget to count.

Choose.  Select one or two holiday traditions and enjoy those.  It could be listening to music.  Perhaps it will be singing.  You may choose decorating a tree or baking cookies.  Whatever it is, do it and savor the moment.

You may not achieve holiday glee but that’s not the purpose here.  Taking it small and easy as you protect your emotions will help you fashion your unique path for your holidays.

Holiday Delights

Joyful hurrahs!  That pretty much describes the holiday season.  Suddenly, at the end of November, there’s a quickening of pace and a lifting of spirits as we anticipate.  Over the next four or five weeks, we’ll be in high holiday gear.  Our holiday busyness, our ways of celebration are as various as the imagination allows.

There are so many possibilities, so many holiday delights that it’s easy to hit the overload button.  Instead of overload, choose yours and your family’s favorite ways to celebrate and stick to those. 

Holiday spirit takes hold through much of the world.  That means there are as many cultural ways of celebrating as there are religious ways.  Below you’ll find but a few of the countless ways people celebrate the holidays.  What are your favorites?

Let’s start with music. 
Do you carol through the neighborhood?
Do you sing in a choir, play in an orchestra?  Does your anticipation grow as you  rehearse?
Do you go to hear a choir or an orchestra?
Do you play carols on an instrument for your family? 
Do you play holiday music on your iPod or Nano or CD player?  Do you have some faves?

Then there is the food.
Are you a holiday baker?  Are you one who bakes and cooks and shares with others?
Do you throw a party and cook your heart out for it?
Rather than making and baking, perhaps you enjoy the tasty treats of the season.   Which?

There are gatherings.
Is it friends gathering?  It is travelling a distance to be together?

There is story telling – from the theatrical to at-home retellings.
There’s the Nutcracker and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. 
Perhaps you prefer Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Are you a storyteller?  There are stories to be told, stories to pass down. 

There is gift-giving.
Do you love giving gifts to others?
Do you enjoy finding that perfect gift?
Is it the wrapping of your gifts?
Do you make your gifts?  Do you enjoy giving of yourself to others?
It could be you just plain like receiving gifts.
What about charities?  Whether it’s time, talent or money, it is a season to help others.

There are always elevated spirits.
Does your pace quicken?  Do you feel that holiday season joy?

Do you have a holiday season persona? 
Are you the one who “ho, ho, ho’s”?
Do you have favorite holiday clothes?  Maybe you like to wear red shoes or you’ve a  favorite pair of socks.  Even a jingle bell bracelet?

There are decorations everywhere.
Is it decorating your home?  What about your yard?
Do you decorate a tree?  What makes your decorating time most special?

Is it the countdown, the anticipation you most enjoy?
Do you enjoy an advent calendar?

Is it spiritual?  Or, is it the traditions handed down over the years?  What are they?

It’s a season to reach out to others wherever they may live.
Do you send cards, letters and photos?  Do you visit family and friends

Here’s the thing.  The holidays are no longer just Christmas for Christians, Hanukkah for Jews and Kwanzaa for those of African heritage.  It’s true; non-believers enjoy the holidays as well.  Plus, for some, the traditions have blended.  The important point is that you do what is right for you and yours.  Remember, though, to avoid the overload so you can savor your holiday season.

Happy holidays!  The season has begun.

A Little Holiday Wisdom

The holidays are upon us.  If you’re like me, Thanksgiving is the signal for a breakneck pace, the rush to prepare.  The retailers have been reminding us for weeks that it’s time to start but for most of us, it takes Thanksgiving to get us into gear.

Yes, there are many among us who prepare all year long.  Their gifts are chosen, wrapped and awaiting a position beneath someone's tree.  Not me.  I have done nothing.

For those of us who haven’t begun, there’s still time to be sure our holidays will be memorable.  It does, however, take a little forethought and planning – over the next couple of days.  Before entering the shopping madness, take a moment to consider these.

First, what do you expect from your holidays?  Have you ever asked yourself that - what you expect from your holiday season?  It’s important to nail down expectations so there isn’t a sense of regret or unfulfilled promise at the end.  The holidays are so full of energy and hope but if we don’t know what we’re anticipating, it’s likely we’ll be let down.

Next, recall yours and your family’s favorite traditions.  Your favorites will lead the list of choices for this season.  Remember to consider whether there have been any changes in other, life changes may mean holiday choices will be different this year.

Don’t forget to cross off those traditions that no longer satisfy.  We evolve.  We change.  It’s not heresy to change your favorites.  This might be the year for a new tradition.  What will it be?

Look at the calendar.  Figure out your timing.  The school choir’s performance.  The tickets to The Nutcracker.  What are the things that are already commitments?  What about parties you want to give or you expect to attend? 

Tomorrow is the last day of November.  That leaves little time for a lot of celebrating.  Consider this, New Years’ Eve is a mere 31 days off!  Now’s the time to let your calendar help guide you.

Making choices.  We can’t do it all; there are just too many possibilities in the holiday season.  It’s time to decide what you will do in Holiday Season 2013 and what you will leave for seasons beyond.

What will make this holiday season memorable?  What can you do to be sure it’s a year you’ll happily remember?  Starting a new tradition can make it memorable.

Avoid end-of-season regrets.  Making plans – a traditions plan and a money plan – will help you prevent disappointment or regret.

Savor.  That’s right; don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your planning.  Enjoy the moment.  Breathe in the scents.  Delight in the sounds, the flavors and your uplifted spirits,.  Appreciate all that you have, all that is a part of your 2013 holiday season.

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