Christmas is the time of cheer and happiness. But how many of you are fretting about the getting together of relatives and in-laws, panicking about what to cook, wear, eat, do, buy, how to get on with the extended family, let alone your own - under the same roof, and for some, how to cope with loneliness at Christmas?
This holiday season comes once a year, bringing with it high hopes of merry making and happiness sharing. But the celebration, including eating, drinking and present-giving, needs a lot of preparation. Having to cook for many people and accommodate house guests can be exhausting and make you grumpy. Having spent time shopping for gifts, pushing through the crowds and standing in a long queue for each item you bought, only to find that your gifts don't excite those who receive. Or you have to pretend to be excited about what you get when you are not. On top of that, the pressure to look good, feel great and be jolly makes you feel even more miserable because you are overtired and you need a rest. Two days later finds you braving the weather, pushing through the crowds to exchange items you don't like or don't fit. If your Christmas celebration starts from as early as November, by the time Christmas comes, you probably don't want to see another turkey on your plate. Or you feel too bloated and can't squeeze yourself in any nice party outfits. Add all those late nights, the lack of sleep and resulting cortisol releases, plus escalated irritable moods, it's no wonder people fall out at Christmas, notwithstanding the under-the-mistletoe romance.
New Year's resolutions thus become handy - to avoid the same old mistakes of yesteryear as well as patching things up with fallen-out loved ones. If they haven't forgiven you by then, there's Valentine's Day looming where you will have another chance to say sorry and how much you love and care for him or her.
But why not let go of expectations for things to be right and happy in the first place? Our expectations can be so intense that instead of feeling relaxed and enjoying oneself, the pressure makes us feel quite the opposite. We end up feeling depressed. Happiness is all about letting go. Clinging to our expectations brings only restlessness. Haunted by upsetting experiences of last Christmas and fearful of future recurrence, our thoughts run back and forth between past and future but hardly in the present. We don't need to postpone happiness till all our worries are sorted and under control when we can be happy right here and right now.
Stop planning or rushing around for 10 minutes. Make peace with yourself and this present moment. Pay attention to your body, bring awareness to this body, and simply watch the rising and falling sensations of the abdomen as you breathe in and out. There is nothing of importance for you to do right now except to be in the present moment with your breath for a full 10 minutes. If your thoughts start to drift to other things, be aware of that too and bring the mind back to the breath. If you are in the garden, tune in, be in the present moment with nature. You will discover the beauty of simple things you may not have appreciated before, be they a blade of grass, the trembling of the leaves, the colours of nature which become more vibrant, dew drops on the ground seem more sparkling... and later on, you can be in the moment when you are cooking the Christmas lunch. Be with the activity you are doing, whether you are peeling the potatoes, stuffing the turkey, stirring the gravy. Be one with each activity. If the mind starts to wonder off onto other things, bring it back to the activity in front of you so that you won't burn the turkey or drop the gravy. Most importantly, you will be able to stop the worries, stay calm and have a truly jolly Christmas! Cheers!