This time of year can be wonderful, but it can also be a major source of stress for anyone. My idea of hell is spending any amount of time holiday shopping in a mall. This is why I do most of my shopping on-line. But one can never completely avoid running around in preparation for the holiday season. After a while, we can start to feel like the Grinch, wishing that the holidays would just “hurry up and go away already, I’m tired”. Or, perhaps I am just speaking for myself?
Fortunately, I can see the irony of feeling resentful during a time when we are supposed to be celebratory and joyful. In our family, this will be our first Christmas without our Dad. Other close family members and friends are also missing their loved ones. So each time I feel my personal Grinch resurrecting in shop line-ups, rather than zoning out with my phone, I turn to the person beside me, smile (mindful of not coming off as creepy) and strike up a conversation about something one of us is buying. Or, if I am wedged in traffic, instead of resenting anyone cutting in front of me, I make a point of enthusiastically waiving them ahead. After all, it isn’t personal; we are all just trying to get somewhere. Even though I sometimes have to prompt myself to be cheerful, it’s amazing how quickly my brain buys into this cheerful façade. I actually do start to feel lighter.
There is real science behind the term “fake it ‘til you make it”. In fact, it’s a psychological phenomenon which was introduced by Leon Festinger in 1957 called “Cognitive Dissonance” (also known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect). I have interpreted it as: Person has a particular attitude or belief ---Person does something contrary to that attitude or belief---Person feels uncomfortable (dissonant) about the contrast----Person changes attitude or belief to match contrasting actions. This can apply to a million things, (and can also work conversely to justify bad behaviour but let’s stay positive here). In my holiday example it goes something like this:
- I feel grumpy about holiday chaos
- I act cheerful and gracious despite my grumpiness
- People mirror my cheerful behaviour and are nice back to me
- I think “being cheerful feels much better, I think I’ll go with it”
I follow Anita Moorjani, an inspirational speaker who had a near death experience. She feels she was given a second chance at life and now tours the world to share her message of encouragement. She was asked to speak to people who live in parts of the world going through turbulent times about how to stay positive. Here is her advice:
“Imagine that you're a light bulb. We don't serve anyone by staying in the dark, whereas by shining our own light as brightly as possible, we help to light the way for everyone else! So our biggest gift to ourselves and the world is to shine our own light as brightly as possible, and be as joyful as we can be, and bring that joy out in to the world with us, wherever we go.” - Anita Moorjani
May you be a big, bright shiny light bulb surrounded by many others on the string this holiday season.