Many of us relate to the holidays as stressful or even depressing. We all wish it could be happier and more peaceful. How can we possibly make that happen?
Well, think about it. What is the polar opposite of stress?
The answer, of course, is peace. What a revelation, since peace is the reason for the season. Every major religion has a holy day or week or month each year that’s intended to help people realize the enormous worth of inner peace. Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the time in America when we celebrate peace – at least in theory. It’s the time of year we’re encouraged to remember that peace on earth begins with peace in our own hearts.
So, the cure to holiday stress is simple. Make the holidays about the one thing it’s meant to be about. Make it about being at peace and nothing else. Make peace the most important thing you do every day this holiday season. My newsletter this month is an invitation to all of us to move peace from a theory that’s proven wrong during the holidays to a practice that pursues the goal of realizing peace, regardless of how anyone else behaves.
Happily, peace is not hard; stress is hard. Peace couldn’t be simpler.
Below are ten simple conditions for attaining peace. Remember them and practice doing what they prescribe. Not once, but often; every day, throughout the day. You don’t have to do them all. Look them over and choose one or two or a few that speak to you and make it your practice. You can connect back to your practice whenever you mess up. And you will mess up. But if you practice, things will get easier. Even a little practice can switch the brain’s mood set point to positive, which opens your heart. As a result, your holiday experience will be a happy one, even when someone you love gets weird.
The Conditions for a Stress-Free Holiday Season
1. Peace is quiet, so start each day this season in quiet. Each morning, practice setting a peaceful day in motion first thing.
- Close your eyes or take a downward gaze. Tilt your head toward your heart. Follow your breathing.
- Feel each breath softening your heart and opening it wider.
- Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life. There’s no guarantee you’ll get another day, so appreciate it. Also feel gratitude for another day to be with those you love. Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achieving things and with learning to choose to be peaceful inside, regardless of what is happening outside.
2. Peace is rejuvenating, so take breaks and catch your breath.
- During the day, every couple of hours, step away from the hustle and bustle and look out the window for a few minutes and let your mind go completely.
- Observe what the sky is doing.
- Watch the wind blow, the sun shine, or the snow fall. Allow yourself to feel connected to life.
3. Peace is grateful. So, once a week, before going to sleep, count your blessings.
- Name three things that happened this week for which you are grateful.
- Then name three aspects of your life, generally, for which you feel blessed.
4. Peace is spacious. Every now and then, take a time-out to open your mind a little wider:
- Tell yourself: Please, mind, go a little slower. Don’t be so nervous. Don’t be so negative. Open a little wider.
- Practice thinking less and loving more.
- Tell yourself and often that everything is going to be alright.
- Then go out into the world and smell the roses (or the holly). Hug the people you love. Watch children play. Focus attention on this moment, right here, right now and let life surprise you.
5. Peace is forgiving. Not 50 percent but 100 percent forgiving.
- So forgive the past. Forgive everyone, including yourself.
- Forgive every bad thing that has happened, is happening now, and is sure to happen again.
- Forgive the past so completely that you can hardly see it.
6. Peace is intelligent. It finds the middle ground. Its approach to life is balanced.
- Peace doesn’t eat too much or spend too much or withhold too much.
- Peace doesn’t argue, defend or complain.
- It changes the things it can change, accepts the things it can’t change, and it can tell the difference between the two.
- Peace is not co-dependent. It’s no one’s fool and no one’s doormat. It’s smart enough to walk away from dysfunction and stand out of harm’s way.
7. Peace is self-confident.
- So don’t worry about anything.
- Vow that during the holidays you will practice not worrying.
8. Peace is compassionate, so don’t judge.
- Don’t judge yourself when you slip up, become stressed or behave badly.
- The same goes for other people’s nonsense and mistakes.
- Let it all go and start over, choosing again to be at peace.
9. Peace is adaptable. If you are not at peace and peace of mind feels a thousand miles away, use the back door. Be at peace with your non-peace.
10. Peace has faith. There is no degree of stress in any situation that faith cannot remove. Often the problem in life is not the situation we face but the lack of faith with which we face it.
It’s a no brainer. You will have a happier, less stressful holiday if you commit to practicing even three of the above. The better angels of your nature will come out and create a holiday to remember.