However you celebrate, Happy Holidays! My gift to you this year is a collection of insights on how to make the 2014 season brighter, warmer and more memorable.
The holidays are a great time to relax, let go, and revel in the indulgences of the season, by all means. But even better they are a time to remember what truly matters in your life, hopefully including but not limited to: your relationships with your loved ones, your health, goals and aspirations, and the impact of your legacy now and into the future. You get the idea! Though the holidays can be anxiety-inducing what with messages of rampant consumerism blasting from all outlets, and the attendant stress from shopping trips and the nagging need to buy gifts for everyone on your list, it is grounding to reflect on what has real meaning in your life. Stress and depression are real issues for many people at this time of year. For some these come from pressures to keep up appearances or obligations to see relations that they otherwise avoid. For others, the holidays are a reminder of what they don’t have in their lives: perhaps anything from regular, nutritious meals, to loving and supportive family, to access to the socioeconomic opportunity that many of us sometimes take for granted.
Many people encounter disruptive situations in their lives that challenge their health, living or familial circumstances. Take the time to put yourself in the place of someone who may not be so fortunate as you. Truly we who have most of our many “wants” met every day are rich beyond belief, if we stop to really think about. What’s a new piece of technology or fancy watch to the real wealth of loved ones, and having your true (not invented) needs met? For an eye-opening read on cultivating a healthier mindset towards money and material goods, check out this great Two Cents article. It may give you a new outlook on your wish list, and give list, this holiday season. Covenant House is a homeless youth agency in Toronto that provides at-risk youth with safe shelter, food, clothes and life-changing programs. Have a look at the lives they’re changing. Since this is the time for giving, consider making a donation to help someone in need.
Show Some Love to Friends (and Foes!)
This time of year is ideal to reflect on the people in your life, and to ask yourself if those closest to you love you for who you are, and not what you can do for them. If you are lucky enough to be able to say this for most of your immediate group, don’t be shy to express your gratitude. Visit or call up family, friends, and especially those you haven’t talked to in a while or perhaps have an old conflict with, for whatever reason. You can put aside your differences and embody that which you wish to see in people. In fact, leading by example is by far the best way. In the spirit of the holidays, you can choose to drop old grudges and reach out to troublesome family, a fallen-out friend, or a rival at work, and bridge old divides. You’ll be surprised at not only what it may do to for your relationships, but also for your personal well-being. It can be a huge relief to apologize, or forgive as the case may be (even if they do not ask for either). A simple, generous act can free you to begin the New Year with a mental and emotional clean slate.
Winter’s earlier sunsets aren’t generally greeted with much cheer, but they are good for one thing: better viewing of the more decked-out and lit-up residences across the city. This early in the month there isn’t a published guide out yet, but take a look at a past guide from The Grid for some ideas on where to go seeking holiday cheer in the form of hundreds of coloured watts, and all manner of reindeer and kinda creepy gnomes. Some Torontonians take it so seriously that it’s worth venturing into neighbourhoods like Lawrence Park, Caledonia Road (between Eglinton and St. Clair), and Glenlake Avenue near Dundas West, according to The Grid. When it comes to your own holiday displays, remember safety first! Set indoor and outdoor strings on timers, and ensure to keep cords and plugs well away from pets and children.
For holiday displays against the backdrop of heritage Toronto architecture, be sure to visit the Toronto Christmas Market, packed with snack booths and fun activities amidst the top bars and restaurants of the Distillery District. It’s on from now until December 21st.
New Year's Revitalizations
As someone wise once said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So set yourself up for success by taking the time now, early in the month, to start planning your goals over the next year. It’s a good idea to look at this time as an opportunity to “reset” yourself and revive your passions and aspirations, rather than a do-or-die venture tied to the “New Year’s Goal” bandwagon, which many inevitably fall off of. Isn’t it funny how by simply talking with family and friends, you can trigger ideas for your own goals and aspirations, as well. Those closest to you often have a valuable objective view of what makes you tick, what excites and inspires you. You can also ask these questions of yourself, point blank. Feel obligated to think big! The more ambitious and exciting the goal is to you, the more likely you will be motivated to move toward it through trying times.
Once you have determined your goals and aspirations, make sure to break them down into smaller, scheduled tasks that will give you a sense of accomplishment as you check them off your list, fueling your desire to keep going. Small but consistent actions towards big dreams are the path to success. In setting your intentions, it can help to say them out loud yourself and repeatedly over time, thinking about how you can go about them in the most natural, self-fulfilling way. You should write your intentions down at the very least, but don’t stop there: put them on a note on your phone, on a message board near your desk, on your computer’s desktop…wherever you will be reminded often!
Lastly, though this is an obvious time for indulgements, remember to choose them wisely and know when you've had enough. Nothing ruins the enjoyment of a piece of chocolate cake, or a hearty and comforting mac and cheese, than the constant partaking in these luxuries. If one of your goals is a healthier you, the simplicity of restraint is a great way to have your cake and (metaphorically) eat it, too!