December 17, 2015

When the Party’s Over: Keeping a Holiday Heart.

Christmas Stars

The holiday season can be a powerful source of love-filled traditions we look forward to each year.

But how do we maintain the warm, fuzzy feelings of family, giving and gratitude they provide after the decorations come down, our pants fit a little snugger than they did before and our credit card bills loom with yet-to-be-paid-off holiday purchases?

I work with clients daily who wish to live with more authentic, fulfilling love—both with self and others.

Here, I want to offer a few tips to bringing some of our best holiday heart energies into 2016 to help cultivate exactly that:

Continue the act of giving.

At a talk about her creative work, the lovely Elle Luna (author of The Crossroads of Should & Must) shared a message I adore: Eventually, giving starts to feel like receiving, and this is the sweet spot worth continuing to give.

Start with those in our communities.

Even if we’re feeling the ol’ wallet pinch post-holiday spending, donating time can be a valuable resource for organizations in the area that offer assistance to people, animals or Mama Earth year round. An employee at the San Francisco Food Bank once told me that after the holiday rushes die down and folks neatly tuck their resolutions on a shelf to (really, we mean it!) revisit next year, the number of daily volunteers drastically reduces.

During the traditional winter holiday months of November to January, it’s often difficult to snag an open volunteer spot, since so many feel inspired (and reminded) to pay it forward. This is great, of course. But if we want to really step up and make our time valuable? Commit to lending a helping hand in late winter or spring, when they lack the same influx of volunteers.

Remember that big mistakes provide a platform for big comebacks.

Whatever might have happened in 2015 to rock the boat, shake our cores or send the ego into a tailspin, aim to shift perspective on it.

In coaching, we help re-frame failure for our clients. I remember early on in my own training having to wear a sticker with a single confetti-decorated word: Fail! We’d get a check on the sticker each time we missed the mark in class, and boy, I really hated that damn thing. But slowly, my pulse-racing anxiety over receiving a dreaded check turned into lightness, giggles and breathing room.

At the core, I was learning. Aren’t we all?

A fellow coaching classmate told me about a tradition she and her gal pals started earlier in the year called “Failure Fridays.” “Every Friday,” she said, “we update an email chain with how we each failed that week, and then celebrate one another—and if we feel as though we don’t have anything to share, then we know we haven’t taken enough risks that week!” She essentially cultivated a cheerleading squad/support group for celebrating failure. How’s that for a new perspective?

I love this technique, because the level of accountability is strong, but playful. The truth is that failure is a stage on which some of the greatest minds, artists and history-makers have performed to a standing ovation.

Fell flat on your face in 2015? *Jazz hands,* baby. 

Take time to nourish or heal ourselves each and every day. 

More and more folks make an effort to find calm amidst holiday madness, because the act of giving must certainly include ourselves for maximum benefits. Let’s keep it simple so that we’re more likely to continue the self-love until it’s an unshakeable habit.

I love things like a morning ritual of hot water with lemon out of my cherished Golden Girls mug, or reading a few chapters of anything Anne Lamott has written while rocking an organic mud mask. Basically, what feels really good? Succulent, in that fills-me-up way, even if it means looking silly with dirt on my face and old lady faces on my cup.

Honestly, living with authenticity is an act of courage. Why not take a few moments to be gentle with ourselves and nourish our souls in whatever way feels right to us?

Honor our values in playful, light hearted ways.

The holidays have a particularly compelling way of reminding us what we value in life.

To stretch this further into the new year, we can plan to re-imagine our favorite festive moments. For example, schedule an “Un-Birthday” or official “Christmas in July” event. An organization I belonged to during my college days at Penn State surprised its members each year with an “Un-Birthday” party. They’d contact our families, inviting them to send silly cards and small gifts, which were distributed while we ate cake and ice cream in a classically balloon and streamer decorated spot. It was such a simple idea that brightened our afternoons each year, especially since the majority of the group was unaware of when it would happen. Our ages didn’t matter; it just felt good to share in this fake celebration with friends in a way that felt as though we were all, equally, deserving of some love.

Remember, we don’t have to burden ourselves with solo event-planning responsibilities; we can share the party prep with people we dig. Who says holiday cookie baking and swapping with neighbors must only occur in December?

The point is to think about the traditions we most love—and gain the most from (hopefully emotionally, and not via cookie weight on the pants line)—and give them a chance to shine in fun, new-twist ways outside of the time frame they’ve previously been limited to.

Let’s ask ourselves: What is it really about these holiday traditions, what are the values behind them, that fill our hearts so fully and can possibly be replicated all year long?

Practice the kind of mindfulness we would wish our children to have.

Say thank you. Take deep breaths. Constantly ask a question that my dear friend and yoga teacher once proposed to our class:

“Do you want to make people’s spirits feel big, or do you want to make them feel small?”

This mantra has changed my life in a way that many other mindfulness practices have not. As my sister also asks her elementary school students when they are struggling with another classmate: “Does that give you the warm fuzzies, or the cold pricklies?” The point is, our minds can be ego-centered tricksters who want words, words, words to make us “right.”

But magic happens when we go quiet for a moment—when we tap into our kinder instincts to ask what sort of energy we want to be responsible for putting out.

This is the only energy we are responsible for, so let’s aim for big spirits and warm fuzzies, shall we?


Relephant Reads: 

Five Unique Ways to Celebrate Christmas.


Author: Tricia DiGaetano

Assistant Editor: Ellie Cleary / Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Clint Mickel/Flickr


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