Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season — and the start of holiday stress and anxiety. If your holiday patterns cause you more stress than joy, consider starting new traditions this year. Here are seven steps to starting a more spiritual and meaningful holiday season:
1) Get conscious. Instead of falling into regular holiday patterns, take a few minutes to consider what kind of holiday season would reflect your values and deepen you spiritually. Consciously enter into the season with these values in mind and use them to set priorities and make choices.
2) Set priorities. Prioritize holiday plans that reflect your goals and values. Say no to events that will not support the kind of state of mind and heart you want for yourself this holiday season.
3) Focus on what matters. Take some time to connect deeply to the spiritual part of each holiday event. Our culture pressures us to get caught up in the image and fantasy of the holiday, instead of the real gifts that are possible when we are centered and present with the blessings we have. Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude; make gratitude the centerpiece of the day and let everything else come second.
4) Connect to God inside. Connect to your own heart and God within you. Other people cannot make you happy. Other people cannot define you. Instead of looking to others to give you a sense of purpose and value, look to God for your meaning and purpose. If you get caught up in trying to win the love or approval of others, step back, breathe deeply and ask God to fill you with God’s love and presence.
5) Be the change you want to see. With your family and among your friends, start new traditions that honor your values. Make honesty, connection, and service central to your holiday traditions. Exchange patterns of consumerism and obligation from your holiday, for patterns of loving-kindness and heart-felt service.
6) Accept others as they are. If you choose to share your holiday with people who do not share your values, accept them as they are. It is not a virtue to criticize others because they do not value the same things you do. Instead practice deep acceptance and kindness toward people who are different than you. Focus on being an expression of your values rather than on converting others.
7) Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Practice appreciating the gifts you have. Make at least one gratitude list this season. Take time to let the people you love know that you appreciate them. Take stock of miracles in your life right now. Open your heart to a deep and abiding gratitude for what you have and the gifts that God wants to bring into your life. Practice appreciating not only the easy and pleasant things but also those things that have challenged you and strengthened you.
When you choose to enter consciously into the holiday season, whole new possibilities open to you. Take time to envision, feel and create the kind of holiday experience that will nourish your heart and draw you closer to God.