With Christine Kniffin, LCSW, Therapist & Relationship Coach


What Really Matters this Holiday Season?



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It’s a simple question, but perhaps one that you haven’t given much thought to in this ever fast-paced world we live in.  Don’t you love how it’s always described as if it is somehow the world’s fault that we run around like chickens, rather than the fact that every day we make the choices regarding scheduling our use of time?  I think what I like about the holidays is the sense of nostalgia that it brings.  It’s a return to the simple pleasures of food and family; gratitude for the abundance that we do have; and everything just seems to slow down a bit, albeit by default, as the registers stop ringing and the big consumerism machine grinds to a halt for one precious day.   These three things all lead down the path to happiness.  Happiness is what really matters this holiday season.

Happy people are those who can not only be satisfied with, but actually find joy, in the simple pleasures in life.  Bonding with family through conversation and food are actually simple pleasures.  The communal nature of this ritual provides us with a sense of belonging.  This is   one of the core needs that all humans have, whether they are fully aware of it or not.  If you find you can get this need met with the traditional version of family, then great.  However some people find just as much pleasure and comfort celebrating the holidays with good friends.   Connecting with others is a simple pleasure, but an important one as well.  It doesn’t cost anything.  Take the time to cook together in the kitchen, another simple pleasure.  You don’t need to spend a fortune or have the perfect meal.  That’s not what really matters.  It’s the connecting that counts.

Having a sense of gratitude is another trait that is common among happy people.  Many families and individuals are struggling financially and the thinning wallet will have an effect on the amount spent on toys and presents.  However, the consumer advertising machine works diligently every day to try and convince us that our happiness is dependent on the acquisition of “stuff”.  Logically, then, it follows that we could feel badly about not being able to buy and give as much stuff this holiday season.  But, we need to make the decision right now to fight this ridiculous brainwashing.  Stuff doesn’t matter.  What matters this holiday season is that we have food to eat, a roof over our heads, people who care about us and hopefully our health.  I hardly watch the news anymore.  It continues to be so doom and gloom with divided politics and the associated predictions of fear projected by both parties regarding the fate of the country.  The incessant, hyper-focus on the GDP, home foreclosures, job numbers, looming deficit, etc is simply too much.  I can’t really do anything about it.  And, if I participate by tuning in to the hammering of endless news cycle babble, I truly do feel myself becoming more down and less happy.  Instead, I do try focus on the positive and that will always begin with expressing one’s gratitude.  Take some time each evening and write down 5 things that you are grateful for this holiday season.  Try doing this for a week or two and I bet you just may find your sense of happiness begin to noticeably rise.

Finally, happy people seem to know how to slow down, live in the present and take in the joys of life.  The holiday season is the perfect time to begin practicing this healthy trait.  Stores close briefly, work cuts out early with some people having several days off and life noticeably begins to lessen its pace.  Too much running, the result of excess scheduling, is completely future focused.  While there is plenty of merit in planning for the future and setting goals, too much busy running keeps us from living in the present and appreciating the moment.  Take the time to enjoy some simple pleasures and make sure you don’t schedule too many things.  We may feel that we have to commit to visiting multiple homes during the short holiday season or else people will have their feelings hurt.  However, this keeps us running at a breakneck speed.  Worst of all, it robs us of our appreciation for the moment and all the good things happening on any particular day.  It also makes it especially hard to fully take in the gratitude for the family and friends that you are supposed to be enjoying.

Take the time to slow down this holiday season and focus on the things that really matter.  Family and friends, good food and a warm place to call home should constitute enough to feel great gratitude for the life you have.  Take the time to say thanks for all that you do have and life will seem quite a bit happier.  Happiness and gratitude are what really matter this holiday season.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Therapist and Relationship Coach.  For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.