After the presents have been opened, the carols have been sung, and the festivities of Christmas day are over, most of us tuck our Christmas spirit—you know, that cheerful, nice-to-everyone-cause-it's-Christmas vibe—away until next year. After all, we've been jubilant and jolly (or at least a little bit nicer...) for close to a month now and keeping up that upbeat, Christmas-y attitude can be hard work. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize how much better things might be if we all kept that Christmastime cheer with us all the time.
Of course, part of the reason it's not so difficult to be a bit kinder, a tad more cheery at Christmas is because it is a limited thing. It's easy to think, "I'll be nicer to my cranky coworker because it's Christmas" or "I'll smile at the person who stole my parking space because it's Christmas." Knowing that Christmas cheer is a limited time only offer makes it easier to embrace it. But what if we didn't limited it? What if we kept that spirit all year long?
Staying in a Christmas state of mind for twelve months of the year is probably unrealistic. Let's be honest: we can't be carol-singing, gift-giving little elves all year long. But there are a few elements of the holiday season that we can keep with us throughout the year, giving every day a chance to have just a bit of the magic that comes along with Christmas Day. Here are some of the best ways to keep the spirit alive every day of the year:
Focus on what you have. The holiday season often reminds of all that we have to be thankful for: our friends, family, and the collective joy many of us experience at this time of year. If we keep that feeling of appreciation with us all year long, we'll prolong the wonder of Christmas on a daily basis. The trick is to focus on what you have, not what you want. Through the year, whenever you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had…” replace that with, “I’m so thankful I have…”
Know what really matters. At Christmas—at least on Christmas Day!—most of us prioritize matters most: spending time with those we love and celebrating a season that means something to us. During the rest of the year, it can be hard to keep our priorities straight with all of the various aspects of life vying for our attention, but when you bring yourself back to what matters most, you make the most of every day.
Treat strangers with kindness. At Christmastime, people are often a bit kinder, merely based on the fact that it's Christmas. Treating others with kindness—especially those you don’t know, and especially those who don't necessarily treat you with kindness—is a wonderful way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive every single day of the year. When someone bothers you, imagine how you would treat him or her if it were Christmas Day.
Look for the good. Christmas is a time for taking note of things we love—the people we care about, the gifts wrapped just for us—and it's also a time for noticing special things—the little traditions, the pretty, glittery decorations. The season brings out a sense of childlike wonder. Trying to embrace that wonderment all year long, by looking for good bits in every day, is another great way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.
Sometimes it's hard to keep the spirit of Christmas alive at Christmas, let alone all year long, but when you find yourself in an unpleasant situation or dealing with a difficult person, I've found that it really does help to think to yourself, "How would I react if today were Christmas Day?" It sounds silly, but it's surprising how much kindness and cheer you can conjure up when you call up the spirit of Christmas.
For those of you celebrating Christmas this week, I hope you have a very, merry Christmas, and thank you for reading Positively Present. Readers like you are some of the best Christmas presents I could ask for!