"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
The other day I was in the mall and I found myself pretty much pushing past people in a hurry to get to the next over-crowded store. I was lugging bags and feeling stressed. The cheery Christmas music was grating on my nerves and I felt as if every drop of Christmas spirit had been sweat from my body. On my mind were gifts to purchase, a nagging irritation with all of the people suddenly in my mall, and a pressing desire to have everyone move out of my way.
My mindset, I realized, could be defined as the opposite of the Christmas spirit. I was Scrooge. I was the Grinch. My name deserved to be on Santa's naughty list.
The last things on my mind were being positive or present. And rather than seeing the people around me as fellow humans, all on the same quest for great Christmas gifts, all eager to get home to their families and friends, I saw all of the people around me as the enemies -- the creatures standing in the way of me getting where and what I wanted. The last thing I was thinking about was connecting with them in any way. And why would I? I was viewing them as roadblocks, barriers, problems -- not the just-like-me people they were.
I needed a change of heart, a change of pace. ASAP. So, as I recalled all of the positive holiday posts I'd written this year, my heart filled with a something vaguely resembling shame and I slowed my pace. I let other people actually pass me. I offered a frazzled sales girl a shy smile, which she returned with a look of gratitude. It was then, with the soundtrack of a screaming child and a frustrated parent in the background, that I realized she probably hadn't received too many smiles that day. Much as it saddened me to realize, I wasn't the only one in go-go-go Christmas mode, focused only on my own hurried mission. There were a lot of people -- maybe even most people -- who weren't being very positive or very present.
I thought back to my days as a sales assistant at stores like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Anthropologie. I recalled the holiday seasons at those stores and remembered that, in my mind, I had divided the customers into two clear categories: Naughty and Nice. Now, as I was striving to fall into the latter category, I realized how many people around me were falling into the former. The holidays are stressful. I get it. It can be overwhelming and more than one person is panic-stricken at the idea of not finding the perfect holiday gift.
But today I want to ask you to do just one thing: take a deep breath and act like someone whose name is printed on the Nice list. Don't know how to do that? Follow these suggestions below...
Ways to Get Off the Naughty (and on the Nice) List
- Let someone else go first. I know, it's hard -- but it will be worth it.
- Acknowledge that others are feeling just as stressed as you are.
- Walk, drive, talk slowly to calm yourself (and those around you).
- Share a funny picture or video with a friend. Everyone loves to laugh.
- Donate time, money -- anything. You will be instant Nice List material.
- Give someone a random compliment. No explanation needed.
- Do a small favor for someone you love without being asked.
- Pay attention to those around you instead of focusing on what you need to do.
- Buy a surprise gift for someone you wouldn't normally buy for.
- Ask someone how s/he is doing -- and actually listen to the response.
- Share a positive article with a friend or coworker.
- Call someone you haven't talked to in a long, long while.
- Tell a friend or loved one how much you truly value them in your life.
- Smile. Even when you don't feel like it. Especially when you don't feel like it.
The holiday season can be tough and, much as it pains to me to admit this, it's actually one of the hardest times of the year to stay positive and present (especially when I find myself in a mall stuffed with people!). Nevertheless, I'm not giving up on positivity this year and neither should you. When you find yourself stressed or fretting about what you have to get done, take a deep breath and remind yourself that, if you want to, you can get your name on the Nice List this year, but it's up to you to choose Nice!