December Joy

2016 has been a somewhat difficult year with violence throughout the world, discrimination, a heated and contentious election, and tragedy in our own backyard with the Pulse shooting in June.  It seems to be a welcome relief to be at the conclusion of this year, though I’m sure we all can find a bright spot or two over the past many months- a loved one beating cancer, taking a long anticipated trip, completing an academic or athletic goal, the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years, or even enjoying a laugh with a loved one.

December is often a long anticipated time of year, with changing weather, breaks from school and work, holidays, and visits with friends and family we may not see often. How can we hold onto a bit of December joy in spite of the difficult or disappointing circumstances of our life or in the world?  Consider these tips for cherishing this month of December as you reflect on the positive  memories of 2016 and head into the new year.

Let Your Senses Take the Lead

1.). Take in and enjoy the beautiful, colored lights of Christmas and Hanukkah
2.). Enjoy the aromas of special foods, scents of pine, cinnamon, apple, or pumpkin
3.). Listen to Christmas or other holiday music
4.). Taste some special dish or holiday cuisine that may not be available year-round
5.). Hug those closest to you or even those you may not be especially close to

Take Care of Body, Mind, and Spirit

1.). Eat healthy during the month of December, while still being able to enjoy those rich holiday foods.  Healthy eating will help you feel better and give you more energy.  Practice mindfulness while eating, focusing on the textures, flavors, and aromas of the foods you enjoy.  Chew longer  than you may normally chew, rest your utensil between bites, and engage in conversation while taking your time to eat the foods you enjoy.  Take a multivitamin and drink plenty of water.
2.). Exercise to offer yourself a boost in energy.  Even a walk around the block can help you to feel better, especially after eating a meal.
3.). Be sure to get plenty of good sleep or even a nap during the day if needed.
4.). Practice quiet meditation or prayer.
5.). Disconnect from electronics to enable yourself to be “present” with others.
6.). Focus on the positive and practice thought-stopping of negative thoughts.

December Planning Suggestions

1.). Try not to over-schedule; do plan ahead, and learn to delegate.
2.). Include someone who is alone, lonely, or with no family or friends to your holiday gathering.
3.). Begin a new tradition or continue with a previous one that has important meaning for you.
4.). Volunteer to help an elderly person, neighbor, or serve food at a local church or rescue mission.
5.). Take time for yourself to relax, disconnect from electronics and social media, and be with those you love.

Dealing with an Absent or Ill Family Member or Friend

1.). Try to be present in the moment and avoid expectations.
2.). Respect the feelings of others who may still be grieving the loss of a loved one.  Ask what you may be able to do to support that person during this holiday season which may be their first December without their loved one.
3.). Try to plan for unanticipated situations that may arise- a medical emergency (i.e.- seizure, allergic reaction) that could prompt an ER visit.
4.). Share your feelings and thoughts about the holidays with those closest to you.
5.). Respect the feelings of others about joining in on family activities.
6.). Write a gratitude list about what you are most thankful for this December.

Wishing you and yours much joy this December,
Linda Mesing Cook