02 Dec How to ensure happiness this Christmas
The festive season is loaded with promise, yet we often end up with frayed nerves, fatigue and family feuds. The Australian Women’s Weekly presents some fail-safe ways to avoid going crackers at Christmas and rediscover the joy of this special time.
Define your perfect Christmas
“I would encourage people to sit down as a family and ask, what do I really want Christmas to be? Try to paint a clear picture. It’s hard to achieve something if you don’t really know what it is,” says clinical psychologist Professor Timothy Sharp, author of 100 Ways to Happiness: A Guide for Busy People (Penguin).
What is a happy Christmas?
When you think of your own happy Christmas memories, chances are they are rarely about the decorations, the gift wrapping or the new furniture _ã” they are inevitably of fun times. Professor Sharp agrees. “The spirit of Christmas tends to get lost in materialism and consumerism, and becomes what present do I buy and not how do I have fun with my family? The key is to stay focused on what matters. Get back to your priorities. If you can’t find the perfect present, is that really as important as being a good friend and knowing that you are sharing time with them?”
Sadly, thrusting people who see each other once a year together over a roast turkey just makes flashpoints ignite. Exert control wherever you can, but if you can’t and you just have to go along, Professor Sharp points out that you still have control over how you experience it. “Acceptance is an important part of happiness,” he says.
Approach obligations with a view to getting the best time you can out of them: limit your exposure to the people you find irritating, either by making an excuse to leave early or zeroing in on those whose time and company you enjoy.
Take care of your own happiness
In the frantic lead-up to Christmas, often we let our bodies run on empty. The whirl of parties and gatherings means we lack sleep, and the excess of eating and drinking can leave our energy levels depleted and tempers frayed. It’s worth considering how much this all contributes to any anger or feelings of sadness or failure at Christmas.
Managing grief and sadness
While Christmas can be a lonely and sad time for many people, Professor Sharp says “If your loved one has died, you can still savour their presence in a different way.” It’s bittersweet, but you can celebrate the great things in their life and recall some of the lovely things they did.
Professor Sharp says, “On Christmas Day, it’s a superficial strategy, but try distracting yourself. Find other things to do, other people who are on their own, make a special day for yourself, organise something you have always really wanted to do: cook, get a great DVD _ã” it’s not going to be perfect but it’s making the best of a situation.”