I have a young Facebook friend (he’s a teenager) that tends to be much wiser than his years. This morning, he posted, “Black Friday makes us tackle each other for what we don’t need after a day of being thankful for what we already have. Irony can be amazing sometimes.” Well said, friend.
Most of my clients and friends say that while they generally do enjoy visiting with family and friends on Thanksgiving, the whole idea of it is stressful. It doesn’t matter if the person is cooking, not cooking, traveling, hosting or neither. Just the fact that it is Thanksgiving causes them stress. Delving deeper, I found that Thanksgiving has turned into a symbol of the impending obligatory consumerism that folks face around the holidays, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. I may have a small sample size, but 100% of them were dreading the gift-buying, the decorating or something else related to “the holidays.”
American society is driven by fear and this weird belief that more things equal a better or happier life. Yet, many happy people don’t have a lot of “stuff.” What that tells me is that human beings adapt to whatever situation they are in and it becomes “normal.” I’m afraid that chronic unhappiness, general unease and a wave of low-level anxiety have become America’s “normal.” That may sound bleak, but it is Black Friday after all (a term which also refers to the day the stock market tanked in 1869, after the gold market collapsed).
I know there are happy, peaceful people in this country, but they are the minority. The mainstream media outlets are all owned by a handful of companies, which happen to be the same Power Players in big politics. If the average American watches, reads or listens to only mainstream media, that means they are getting the message that they don’t have enough, don’t look right and that these products will help them fix that. So, they go out and buy stuff they can’t afford, especially around the holidays. I hear people saying that, “This Christmas credit card bill is going to do me in!” all the time! How does this make sense? Does your shiny new whatever really make you happy in the long run? Of course it doesn’t.
If this article resonates with you, there are some things that you can do to cultivate more peace during the holiday season. Sure, you’ll probably still need to do some shopping and/or decorating, but attitude is everything! Here are some tips to cultivate an attitude of peace and acceptance this season:
- Be aware of your own rules for yourself: if you find yourself thinking, “I should do/buy this,” then you’re following a rule set for yourself by yourself and/or society. My clients catch themselves as soon as the word “should” comes out of their mouths. “Oops, I should myself!” they say, which actually sounds really funny if you say it fast; it alludes to crapping your pants. There’s nothing that you should do. You may need to take the pie out of the oven before it burns or you may want to have a pedicure, but the “shoulds” come from arbitrary rules that have been established in your belief system.
- If you really do enjoy shopping for gifts, be aware that most stores have awesome sales all throughout November and December. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are basically just advertising tricks. Shop when you feel like it, not when the media tells you to.
- If you are shopping-averse, consider buying gift cards. Not only is the recipient going to get “free money,” but he/she will also get to buy something that they really want. That puts an end to the hideous neckties and packages of underwear that people force smiles over.
- Talk to your family about buying gifts only for the children. Your gift list can be cut significantly if you all agree not to buy gifts for the adults. You can also limit each relative to buying just one or two gifts for each child, so you don’t have a house overrun by toys and gadgets that will be considered “boring” in a few days.
- If you can afford it, hire a company or an individual to hang decorations on the outside of your home. They’ll do it quicker and no one in your family will have to get up on ladders in the cold.
- Order a “heat and eat” dinner for your holiday celebration. Randall’s, Luby’s and several other stores offer an entire pre-cooked meal that you just heat up in the oven or microwave.
- Consider skipping the decorations inside your home. If it is something you truly enjoy or if you have young children and want to establish a tradition, then do it! But if you dread getting the tree out every year, leave it in the attic. Your holiday will come and go no matter what.
- If you want to avoid obligatory travel, be assertive about your wants and needs with your family. Perhaps you want to start a tradition at your own home instead of going to Grandma’s. Or maybe you’d like Grandma to come to your house. It may be a tough discussion to have, but if you voice your wants and needs, people tend to respect you more in the long run.
The bottom line is that if you dread anything about the holidays, then do something to change it. If enough people actually did what they wanted to do instead of what is expected of them, the holiday season would eventually be focused on what it was intended to be: peace, love and compassion. By all means, let’s be grateful on Thanksgiving, but we don’t have to stop there. Let’s pass a little love onto ourselves as we move into the holiday season! Put that inner guilt-tripper in a sound-proof box!