62 days until Christmas, and I have a plan

IMG_4405Call me crazy, but I am one of those people who don’t mind that Christmas decorations and gift ads are popping up in stores and online. In fact, I love it.

I believe that happy is happy, and if seeing winter decorations and thinking about gift ideas makes people happy, go for it.

Connecting people to positive feelings isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is exactly what our brains need. Knowing that peppermint lattes will soon be available everywhere warms my heart, and I don’t even drink them. They are just another part of the cozy feeling I get as the thermometer drops and the days get shorter. But, the true benefit of these sweet thoughts is the powerful punch of positive chemicals they release in my brain.

I don’t believe the problem is that we are bombarded with holiday “trappings” earlier and earlier, to my way of thinking, if there is a problem at all, it is that we don’t realize that we can only feel “trapped,” if we let ourselves.

Early exposure to the holidays does not have to reduce the fun and holidays themselves don’t have to equal stress, nor do bad holiday memories have to predict similar ones in the future. Except in extreme situations, we get to decide how our holidays unfold.  I know this to be true first-hand. Letting go of past hurts and trying times can be difficult, but creating and then letting new experiences gain top-billing in your mind is worth the effort, and so much more rewarding.

On the flip side, for those who love the holidays, you can let yourselves feel the same joy that special treats and trimmings bring at any time of the year. The misty-eyed, fuzzy feelings the holidays evoke can be found in any moment we choose, all we have to do is zero in on the beauty or joy around us and there we are smack dab in the middle of wonderful – even without the Hallmark version of a snow-filled screen, china and crystal table settings or a not so surprising reconnection with the love of our lives!

You have 62 new and potentially wonderful days ahead to embrace or ignore the holiday season. The choice is yours; do what makes you feel good about yourself and the world around you.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. If you think it is too early for tinsel and lights, don’t let seeing them rile you. They are not worth the negative energy.
  • Yes, retailers want to get you in the mood to buy, but instead of focusing on their motives, and feeling trapped, think about the jobs that holiday sales sustain and create, and always remember no one but you makes the final purchasing decision. Not buying big or for as many people may be a change for you and your usual recipients, so let family and friends know ahead of time that you are cutting back, and then stick to your plan.

2. If you are all in, go for it. Enjoy and savor every special moment and feeling the holidays bring large and small.

3. To prevent any post-holiday blues, remember that those same rich and wonderful feelings can be felt throughout the year. Start now to connect to the joys of everyday life, focus on gratitude and learn to savor past and present moments that bring you good feelings to get in the habit of happiness.

Here’s to your best holiday season ever, however you choose to celebrate it.

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Use your happy holiday memories to create happier moments now

 

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Research reveals that happy memories are a sure-fire way to boost our current happiness levels.  A friend’s recent post on Facebook brought back a flood of positive memories and feelings for me, and reminded me about the research on the positive connection between the past and the present and our happiness. Reliving positive memories definitely increases our current happiness levels, so why not spend some time this weekend remembering “the good times”?

Find a way to relax and sip a cup of tea, hot chocolate, or a glass of wine, and then simply remember the good times – even if the good times were just last week. Add some background music, photos, books etc., anything that will help you recall all those sweet holiday moments that are hiding beneath the tension and stress of this year’s holiday season.

If you are lucky, lots of moments have already come rushing back, savor and enjoy them!

If you are saying to yourself, “What happy holidays moments?”, don’t worry. Simply close your eyes and imagine a positive holiday scene from a movie or book. Sounds silly, but it works!

Then, if you like, you can extend your journey down-positive-memory lane, by finding a way to work your memories, real or imagined, into this year’s holiday season. If the smell of cookies baking holds sweet memories for you, bake some, even if you just buy and bake a ready-to-go roll from the store. Or visit a bakery and soak in the scents. If decorations are part of your holiday memories, try to find a mini-version of something you remember and love – a pine-scented branch can bring you as much pleasure as a 10 ft Christmas tree and one special ornament can be the perfect substitute for a houseful of decorations, as long as you choose it with intent and care. If ice-skating or tobogganing illicit invigorating memories, but time or resources are short, a walk in the woods or park can bring back all those positive outdoor vibes.

And, if your reservoir of holiday memories is not brimming with blissful moments take a minute or two to create some. Staring up at a starlit sky on a clear winter’s night can work wonders for your mood, and may help you create new memories. Even squinting at Christmas lights can release a flood of positive emotions.  Learn to take advantage of each and every moment in the days ahead.

Happy memories and moments are yours for the making.

Happy Holidays!

My Perfect Party Planner

Have you ever dreaded going to a family, office or neighborhood holiday gathering?

Have you ever worried your own event might not turn out “right.”

Well, my “Perfect Party Planner” may help you deal with your holiday happening woes.

“Patrice’s Perfect Party Planner”

Tip #1: If you are dreading a gathering, don’t go. Okay, okay, just kidding – although sometimes not attending is a valid option – try this instead: 

  1. PREDICT BETTER: Parties and life, get better when we predict better. Take a minute or two and picture the party working out great.  Picture yourself leaving the soiree thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. In fact, I had a great time.” or “OMG, that was wonderful.” Envision whatever works best for you; the more details you throw in the better. If you are hosting an event, and nervous about how it will go, picture everyone complimenting your food, decorations, (or whatever you want them to compliment) and telling you what a great time they are having. The point: is thinking about a positive outcome – even for a few minutes, will make you much happier than worrying about a negative outcome for weeks, days or hours in advance, predict success! 
  2. CREATE PLAN B, C, D: Come-up with what you will do if you do find yourself getting frustrated or bored.  “When I start feeling _________ (frustrated, angry, annoyed, impatient, bored, etc.) , I will ___________(check on the kids; compliment someone; help with the food or dishes; walk outside; ask about someone’s vacation; dance; sneak a peek at presents, etc. )  Special note: try not to fill the second blank with “Eat and drink everything in sight”, because as you might imagine that could lead to other problems. The point here is to give yourself options in advance, it will help relax you and if you are creative with your blanks, may even give you a few laughs. 
  3. EYE CONTACT: When people are talking to you, stop thinking about what you are going to say in response or worse yet, looking around the room, and simply notice their eyes, take a second to really look into their eyes. (Please remember we are talking momentary eye contact here  – going much longer might be misinterpreted and scare your colleagues or give your neighbor Nancy’s husband ideas – keep it short, okay?) The point is, notice them not you.
  4. GO WITH A GOAL:  Make a game out of the event. I do this almost every time I attend a party where there will be lots of folks I don’t know or know well. Although I am an extrovert, I am a closet introvert at parties. I absolutely hate mingling at parties. I did PR and special events for years and I am completely comfortable in that realm; I can talk to anyone just about anywhere, but for some reason small talk at social gatherings is really difficult for me, like run-out-of-the-room-screaming-difficult. So I have learned to make a game out of it, and decide ahead of time at least three things to find out about folks attending. Last week, I focused on learning what at least three people love to do in the spare time and what they enjoy about their professions; I met 7 or 8 really nice people and exchanged emails with one. No big deal? For me it was huge, and allowed me to enjoy the party. The point? Divert attention from your worries and put others in the limelight.

Each of these ideas is cost and calorie-free, and can improve any event. Pick and choose what works for you to create a fantastic holiday experience, and reduce your stress level in the process. Some take more practice than others, but since holidays parties are here to stay, pace yourself and enjoy. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas

And, now for my party planning piece d’resistance, I have recreated the classic Christmas carol Twelve Days of Christmas! (Aren’t you excited???)

To create my version, I used some tips that I offered a while back – in a post I wrote titled, “I hear you”, (but whose plugging previous posts), which was about a presentation I heard by author and life coach Marianne Ford. Marianne reminded us that being right isn’t a right and sometimes conversations and life go better when instead of sharing our wisdom, i.e. rebutting the comments of others or offering advice, we simply respond with a friendly, “I hear you.”, or a non-committal but respectful “Ah- huh.”, “ Wow!”, “Okay.”, or “Really?” 

I need all the help I can get in this area, so I wove her words of wisdom and some of my tips into . . .

“Patrice’s Twelve Days of Christmas”or “Twelve Ways to Survive Holiday Happenings”

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Patience for the party.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Two sacks of courage.
And, patience for the party.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage.
And, patience for the party.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Five “Oh, that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Six “Tell me more’s”
Five “Oh, that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Seven “That sounds fun.”
Six “Tell me more’s.”
Five “Oh that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Eight I-can-do-this
Seven “That sounds fun”
Six “Tell me more’s”
Five “Oh that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Nine “Okay.”-“Wow!”-“Really’s?”
Eight I-can-do-this
Seven “That sounds fun”
Six “Tell me more’s”
Five “Oh that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And patience for the party.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Ten “That sounds hard.”
Nine “Okay.”-“Wow!”-“Really?’s”
Eight  I-can-do-this
Seven “That sounds fun”
Six “Tell me more’s”
Five “Oh that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Eleven “Oh my goshes”
Ten “That sounds hard.”
Nine “Okay.”-“Wow!”-“Really?’s”
Eight I-can-do-this
Seven “That sounds fun”
Six “Tell me more’s”
Five “Oh that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s”
Two sacks of courage
And patience for the party.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
Twelve I got through it’s!
Eleven “Oh my gosh’s.”
Ten “That sounds hard.”
Nine “Okay”-“Wow!”-“Really?’s”
Eight I can do this.
Seven “That sounds fun.”
Six “Tell me more’s.”
Five “Oh, that’s great!’s”
Four smiling nods
Three “Ah-huh’s.”
Two sacks of courage
And, patience for the party. 

And, just in case you are wondering, the twelve days of Christmas are the evening of December 24/January 6 (Epiphany) or December 25 to January 7 – depending on the Calendar, Julian/Gregorian you are following.

Feel free to share this new holiday classic with your friends and family, not that I am shamelessly suggesting you email it to everyone you know, or share this post on Facebook or anything, but if you want to . . .

And, for those of you, who are now trying to remember the real lyrics to the “The Twelve Days of Christmas”,  here they are:

Twelve drummers, drumming,

Eleven pipers piping,

Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four calling birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree!

 

Happy Holidays!



 

 

 

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