IT'S A HOLLY JOLLY RUDE CHRISTMAS - 5 tips to regain the Christmas spirit
From bad service at the checkouts to the kids forgetting to write ‘please’ on their Christmas list, this season seems to have pushed good old-fashioned manners to the side-lines. When did the season of good will and gratitude become so rude and lacking in basic manners and what can we do about it?
From bad service at the Christmas checkouts to the kids forgetting to write ‘please’ on their Christmas list to Santa, this season of abundant festive fun and cheer seems to have pushed good old-fashioned manners to the side-lines.
Christmas for most of us conjures up images of a snowy, peaceful and serene Dickensian Christmas of days gone by, where you tipped your hat as you greeted your neighbour in the street and cherished that satsuma in the bottom of your stocking.
But a modern-day Christmas can at times be very different. When did this season of good intentions, gratitude and giving thanks become so rude and lacking in basic manners sometimes? What’s getting in our way of expressing these important sentiments at a time when they should be our priority and what can we do about it?
Split the difference
It’s important to note that gratitude and manners are two separate things. In its simplest form, gratitude is about being thankful. It’s about shifting your perspective from the focus on negative bias, to seeing the positive and appreciating it. Gratitude therefore is how we think about the world and others and has a huge impact on our mental well-being.
Manners on the other hand, is more about how we behave towards others – it is how we manifest how we feel about the world. It stands to reason that if we think negatively and without a gratitude attitude, the way we respond to and treat those around us, will be negative. And this at times can be perceived as a lack of manners. Of course, our perception of manners can change according to our culture, but overall, we all know what basic manners should consist of.
What’s going wrong?
It can’t be coincidence that this decline in common courtesy, particularly at Christmas time, is happening alongside the general negative feeling we have towards the world today. You would not believe how often Donald Trump and Climate Change come up in my 121 coaching sessions. And with the British public divided following the recent General Election, people will no doubt continue to feel quite negative about the world around them which will have an impact on their behaviour.
Yes, Christmas time offers us a chance to relax with family and friends for two days of the year, but what about the other 24 days leading up to it? We’re in a Christmas FRENZY! Frantically buying gifts for family, friends, teachers, great auntie Maureen (who we don’t see from one year to the next) and even the dog. Not to mention that we have jobs to hold down and a household to run. It’s these festive pressures that have many of us running at unsustainable levels of stress and pressure - in what we call ‘stress mode’. In this mode our capacity to deal with the world is reduced to focus purely on the threats and the stressors, leaving us less capacity to let others in and look to support the needs of others. I often witness this rendering some seemingly missed opportunities to demonstrate small acts of kindness or courtesy because we are just too busy being stressed to see that it was needed. And at Christmas time, isn’t that just so sad?
Did social media kill good-will?
With social media an over-lording presence in most of our lives these days, platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are no doubt adding a feeling of pressure to make our homes a picture-perfect shrine to all things Christmas, and our business a display of festive cheer not just in our shop windows but online, too. Our ability to edit what we show on Social Media in to the show-reel ‘best bits’ is creating the perfect storm for how we feel about ourselves. As humans we are naturally wired to compare. An awareness of and aspiration to improve ourselves through comparing to others has essential survival uses to us as a species; pushing us to improve, do better, stretch ourselves, but comparing our holiday worst bits to only the festive best bits that others show you online can be incredibly damaging to our mindset.
Can you save the Christmas mindset?
Like any good Christmas film, it’s never too late to make a change and seek forgiveness through a gratitude attitude. That big beautiful mound of grey matter of ours is endlessly flexible and open to change if we’re willing to give it some focus.
Here are my top five tips for a warm and fuzzy Christmas:
1. Start a gratitude journal. I advise all my clients to take 5 minutes each evening to write three things they feel grateful for that day. It helps to end the day on a relaxed note and puts you in a good frame of mind for the morning. Use one of the many online gratitude apps or treat yourself to a nice new notebook to help it become something you look forward to doing each evening.
2. Challenge yourself to re-frame the negatives. We’re naturally wired to focus on the negative 5 times more than the positive. If our ancestors focused more on the pretty flowers in the meadow instead of noticing the Sabre tooth tiger in the corner, our species would not have survived. But someone bumping in to us in the last-minute trolley dash on Christmas eve or seemingly living a perfect Instagram life is not a Sabre tooth tiger and having the same reaction to it is unhelpful. One way of improving how you see and think about the world and therefore how you behave towards it is to challenge yourself to re-frame the negatives. When you find yourself being judgmental or thinking negatively about someone or a situation, challenge yourself to find five positives in the situation to outweigh the negative bias.
3. Be the change you want to see. Daily random acts of kindness permeate and spread like wild fire as people are inspired to pay it forward. Can you help someone else snap out of a negative mindset by surprising them with spontaneous Christmas spirit? Ask yourself, not ‘what needs to be done about this’ but ‘what can I do?’. What is my contribution to this and what is one step towards better?
4. Take a social media break. People often feel much more positive and abundant when they take a social media detox. Uninstall the apps and relieve yourself from the pressures to be Mr & Mrs Clause-esque in the eyes of people you barely know. Give your mind the chance to reset and accept that you’re chrimbo-tastic just as you are.
5. Get the kids involved. Nothing can kill Christmas spirit like an ungrateful child. Get them on board with developing a gratitude attitude by adopting a few new parenting strategies this holiday:
a. Get specific with praise. Show them how much you appreciate their positive behaviours rather than complimenting them on abstract things. For example, “I loved how you worked well with your sister to learn that new board game” rather than “Aren’t you clever” and aim for a five to one ratio of positive reinforcement to further develop that positive and growth mindset.
b. Play the gratitude game. As a family, grab a note pad and pen and play your own version of grat-tionary! Each player, like in the game Pictionary, draws something they are grateful for while the rest of the family guess against the timer. The categories are either a person, something you have or something you have achieved…or anything else you can think of! This will give them exposure to other people’s positive perspectives whilst having fun together.
c. Write thank you letters. Make sure the children realise the responsibility they have to say please and thank you. Make sure they know that Santa won’t deliver any present without a please. And that once those gifts have been opened, emphasise the importance of saying thank you, either by writing those thank you cards or even just phoning granny to say thanks.
d. Keep your cool. Children love the magic of Christmas – the presents, the tree, dressing up, all the fun events and seeing the family, all the things that can add extra pressure to our adult lives. Remember that the reason you do all of those things is to enjoy them…so don’t forget to do that with them. One thing that children really need for their well-being is good quality time with you and no amount of tinsel can replace that.
Remember, how we experience the world is influenced by how we think about it. And we have control over whether we see it through ‘snow frosted’ or ‘Grinch tinted’ glasses. Adopt a gratitude attitude and help yourself and everyone around you to have a holly jolly, not rude, Christmas!
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