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Out With the Old, In With the New
Posted: 12/28/2012 | Happiness Comments
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The holidays are waning, and soon we’ll be ringing in the new year. Maybe you’ve retained the Christmas cheer, and you’re still basking in the glow of a lovely holiday. Or, you might just be relieved it’s all over. Did you get what you wanted this year, and not just from Santa, but did you get the internal experience you hoped for?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Solstice, our expectations naturally run high this time of year. We dream of harmonious family gatherings, thoughtful expressions of love, peace on earth and joyful celebrations. Often our expectations are based in a fantasy perpetuated by the media, and often our expectations stem from what we think the holidays “should” be like.

We might also continue to react from our childhood experiences, trying to improve on or avoid dismal holiday memories or trying to recreate the magical ones. Some people romanticize Christmas, expecting it to somehow transcend all the stressors we experience the rest of the year. Here we are, living our already full and often overwhelming lives, and we expect the holidays, and all the work that goes with it, to magically make us feel differently. We often overspend and exhaust ourselves in our efforts to do it “right.”

The good news is that if you take an honest look at your experience of the holidays, you can consciously design a beautiful holiday for next year. It’s important to look at this now while you’re still surrounded by the remnants of the holiday, and haven’t yet been swept into the new year. If you take a little time now to journal about your experiences and feelings, you can avoid the habitual mistakes and negative patterns, get clear about what’s important to you, and plan a great holiday for 2013.

You can begin by asking yourself the following questions, and jotting down anything that comes up for you, both positive and negative:

1.    Did you get what you hoped for?

You may have hoped for a special gift, fun time with the family, or just time to relax and enjoy. You may have hoped for a clean house, brilliant tree, and beautifully wrapped presents. What did you want, and did this happen for you?

2. What were your expectations, and were they realistic?

Maybe you expected this year that your mother wouldn’t be critical of your cooking, or your kids would stop fighting. Maybe you expected that you would feel continually happy and supported this year.  Did you expect more from yourself or others than they normally provide?
3. Did you spend according to your budget?

We know that most people overspend on gifts, decorations, food, alcohol and other festivities. Did you have a budget, and if so did you stick to it? Did you overspend by shopping at the last minute, or did you shop compulsively? We’ll talk more about shopping in an upcoming blog.

4.    Did you take time for yourself?

Most of us spend so much time creating a holiday for our kids, our spouses and others that we forget to enjoy ourselves. Did you take the time to enjoy the preparations, along with the celebration? Did you nurture yourself while preparing for the holidays?

5.    What’s really important to you about the holidays?

Maybe it’s feeling connected, or having the best lights on your block. Maybe it’s honoring traditions, like cooking all the lovely food your grandmother used to cook. Maybe it’s important for you to celebrate in a simple way. What do you love most about the holidays?

6. What would you like to do differently next year?

As you write you’ll see things that you’d like to do differently. Maybe you’d like to spend less, enjoy more, relax regularly. Maybe next year you’d like to go away for the holidays, or invite more people into your home. Maybe you’d like to skip a gift exchange altogether.

When you’ve examined your expectations and discerned what’s really important about the holidays for you, you can take steps to design a conscious holiday next year. In the next few blogs, you’ll have a chance to think about your shopping and spending habits, and you’ll be able to choose consciously what works best for you.

How were the holidays for you? What would you like to do differently next year? Please share your thoughts. Your comments make a difference for all of us!

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