Reclaiming a relaxed, joy-filled Christmas begins with positive thinking, says success coach Sharron Lowe – lumpy gravy or not…
As Christmas draws near, TV shows and magazines show us endless ways to make it extra-specially magical – from the food we cook, to the friends and neighbours we entertain, to the outfit we pick for the big day. Sometimes, these tips will involve a makeover: how – with a few seasonal tweaks – we can give last year’s recipes, table decorations and even the Christmas tree a completely fresh look. But what about giving our frame of mind a Christmas makeover?
While we want to create the perfect Christmas, it’s easy to give in to resentment when faced with the most overwhelming to-do list the year demands. We’re expected to juggle work, friends, food shopping, family, present planning and buying, relatives, cards with handwritten messages, children, partner, parties, entertainment and cooking. And even the most confident cook might quake at the prospect of serving Christmas dinner for ten or so family members, as many of us do.
But are we really expected to turn multitasking into an Olympic sport? Are these overwhelming expectations put upon us by others or are they self-imposed? Are you setting yourself up to win or to lose, be happy or stressed? Are your expectations realistic or doomed to fail? And are they already keeping you awake at night?
When we think of Christmas, most of us have a picture in our heads of how it should be: relaxed and stress-free. These thoughts are emphasised by TV advertisements and billboards that idealise the occasion and set up exaggerated expectations. Instead, avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of Christmas marketing – set your own rules.
Would you like to remember Christmas 2017 as brilliant, fun and laughter-filled, with memories to treasure? Of course, we all would.
So why do so many people look to Christmas with dread and describe it afterwards as exhausting? Imagine asking a three-year-old child, ‘So how was your Christmas?’ and they answer, with a pained expression, ‘It was so stressful; I’m exhausted, I can’t wait to get back to nursery school!’ Happily, our natural state is to feel joyous and positive. Stress is what we create by not taking charge of our single greatest asset – our mind.
Everything in life starts here, in our thoughts. Good or bad, positive or negative, our beliefs are our choice. Your mind and emotions will give you joy and positivity just as readily as they will give you stress and negativity. The good news is that the brain is neutral and will simply accept the focus and thoughts we give it. The emotional states we find ourselves in (positive or negative) are the ones we create by our own thinking.
This is how it works… Your thoughts about Christmas will create your focus. Your focus triggers your feelings, moods and emotions. These in turn trigger your actions and behaviour, and your actions create your Christmas. If you start with a positive outlook, you will create a positive Christmas. It’s almost impossible to describe the impact your thinking has on you and your life. It’s like saying breathing is ‘useful’. We’re all born positive, powerful and full of imagination. When young children think of Christmas they can barely contain their excitement, imagination and energy. To them, everything is possible. In the thousands of people I’ve coached through my Mind Makeover workshops, I’ve yet to meet an adult who wasn’t once a child. We all contain vast reserves of positivity and imagination – it’s there in our DNA – we just have to remember how to tap into it.
At Christmas time most people fall into one of three camps: they either make it happen, watch it happen or don’t have a clue what’s happening. Having a Mind Makeover will put you confidently in the first camp, and help you make it happen – your way.
Change your thoughts and change your Christmas…
1 TUNE INTO GRATITUDE
Be grateful. It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, so switch your focus. Your thoughts become your outcome, so concentrate instead on what’s right. Think about all the positive aspects of Christmas, the things you appreciate and that make you happy. Write a list of your top five things to be grateful for. This will shift your focus and mood into a positive state more quickly and easily than anything else.
2 MAKE A PLAN
Decide how you want your Christmas experience to be and how you want to feel. Christmas is a once-a-year journey to enjoy, not a dash to the finish, where you collapse in a heap of exhaustion.
- The mind will not differentiate between real and imagined, so visualise Christmas as you want it to be: magical, fun and easy.
- Have you ever attended a wedding where the bride walks down the aisle in her workout gear or arrives on the wrong day, because she didn’t make a plan? No, I thought not. A bride makes a plan, and Christmas is the same. If you start the day playing catch-up or with items on your to-do list yet to be done, you will create overload. Instead, plan the day in manageable chunks and write a simple list. Follow this plan and tick off the items as you go.
3 USE POSITIVE WORD POWER
Choose your words with care. Use positive language such as: I can, I will, it’s possible. Your ‘I can’ is far more powerful than your IQ. Whether you think you’ll have a magical Christmas or a stressful one, remember your thoughts will become your reality and you will prove yourself right both times.
Don’t fall into using ‘overload’ words: I should do, I have to, I can’t… These become ‘martyr speak’ and make Christmas an event to endure, not an occasion to enjoy and embrace.
At the end of the day, focus on and tell yourself what you did well and not on what you didn’t do. Give yourself compliments not complaints.
4 MAKE YOUR INNER VOICE A FRIEND
We all have one. It chatters away to us all day. Is it a good thing? Well that depends on what it’s telling you. Is your inner voice a friend or the enemy within? It’s hard to beat the enemy when you’ve given it an office inside your own head. Is your inner voice telling you that this Christmas will be happy and fun, or is it saying the opposite? Is it saying you feel in control and have a plan, or is it stuck on a repeat loop telling you, ‘I’ll never get it all done, there isn’t enough time’?
Your internal monologue is like having your own radio station, so tune into a positive, uplifting frequency. The most important things you say are the ones you say to yourself and the most important opinion is the one you have of yourself.
5 DECIDE WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS TO YOU
Why is it important to you? Is it about family time with people you love away from work, time to reconnect, play, have fun, an opportunity to volunteer and feel useful, a time for reflection, me-time, a chance to plan new goals? The right answer is exactly the one that works for you.
- Move your focus from what you are doing to why you are doing it. The why you are celebrating Christmas will motivate you to stay positive, joyous and confident far more than what you will be doing. Write down your top three reasons why this Christmas is important.
6 PLUG IN YOUR MIND COMPUTER
In my book The Mind Makeover I share how to run your mind using the same commands you use on your computer every day:
File all your positive thoughts, feelings and Christmas experiences so you can quickly access and replay them for an instant pick-me-up.
Delete all thoughts that don’t empower you or make you feel good.
Mute other people’s negative chatter, opinions or comments. You do not have to absorb another person’s opinions. Press mute, or – better still – delete toxic energy.
7 CHRISTMAS CHATS AND THOUGHT BOOMERANGS
Christmas thoughts that you throw out into your day can boomerang. They swing back to you as your feelings and emotions. If we focus on what’s stressing us or the fact that we don’t have enough time, that’s exactly what we will get more of – stress and lack of time. When we focus on what excites us, what we are happy about and grateful for, that’s exactly what we will get more of.
- Be aware of Christmas chats and who you talk to. Don’t share negative opinions; delete them. When you put together two people who are dreading the family get-together (forced family time in an enclosed home with too much food and drink and for far too long) they’ll add to each other’s negative state (especially if the conversation is over a couple of glasses of wine). Delete negative dialogue.
8 CREATE ME-TIME
In the run-up to Christmas, carve time out for yourself – whether it’s a massage, a candle-lit bubble bath (my own personal fix), a walk in the hills, meditating or being mindful and in the moment.
- Give yourself time to stop, breathe and appreciate this moment now.
- Don’t record it on your phone, just step into the experience and live it fully. Be mindful of what you are doing and how you are feeling as many times as you can in your day.
- A mindful five minutes to still your thoughts and mind is a far better stressbuster than another glass of wine.
- Cherish each moment. Many people miss the joy of Christmas-time, not because they didn’t experience it but because they didn’t stop, reflect on it and appreciate it when they did.
9 SET BOUNDARIES
Christmas can often be a time to overindulge, both financially and emotionally. Set your boundaries before Christmas and decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. Make a plan and take control.
- Think first, act second. Say no when required and focus on you. We sometimes disappoint ourselves in order to please others. Stay in control and remember the controls are in your mind and thoughts.
10 BE A TEAM PLAYER
Don’t be a martyr; share out your to-do list. A happy Christmas is a team sport with shared responsibility. Team Together achieves more. If necessary, bring in reinforcements. Make a sauce or buy a ready-made one? (Are you seriously asking me?!)
Laughter is the best response when something doesn’t go to plan. So you forgot the cranberry sauce? Laugh about it.
- Your one annoying family member is coming for Christmas lunch but so are another six who don’t annoy you. Approach Christmas with a smile and humour. It doesn’t change the difficult relative but it does change how you feel about him or her. If you don’t like something then change it, and if you can’t change it then change how you feel about it – just laugh.
12 DO SOMETHING NEW
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Rituals and traditions change and diminish, so create your own style of doing Christmas.
Sharron Lowe is a success coach and motivational speaker for global luxury brands; sharronlowe.com. She is author of The Mind Makeover, published by Piatkus Books, price £13.99. To order a copy for £11.19 (a 20 per cent discount) until 10 December, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15
- Most importantly, do something that has nothing to do with eating, drinking or presents.
- Move your body, go out for a brisk walk; it’s a great stressbuster. Still your mind, meditate (even five minutes will help), unplug technology and talk. Jump on a rebounder trampoline for ten minutes (my favourite).
- Do something different. Last year as a family, instead of giving each other presents, we organised a Secret Santa. We were each nominated a family member and could spend up to £20 on a present for him or her, with the proviso that it had to be funny. We’ve never laughed so hard and for so long – or spent so little – as a family!
The best way to ensure a fun, fabulous and memorable (for all the right reasons) Christmas is to use your magnificent mind to imagine it, plan it, create it and live it in the moment it is happening. Feeling happy, excited and joyful is an inside job so don’t look to anyone else to give you a perfect Christmas; they won’t. Instead, give yourself a Mind Makeover and have a wonderful Christmas filled with appreciation, joy and laughter. And where does all this magic begin? In your mind. Treasure it as it’s your very best Christmas present. Happy holidays!