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how to keep the spirit of christmas all year long


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! 

9 ways to cope with loss during the holidays



It's been almost ten months since I put my beloved pup, Bella, to rest. Every day, every month, it gets easier to deal with the loss (perhaps that old "time heals all wounds" saying really has some truth in it), but the holiday season seems to freshen the hurt, mostly because she loved it so much. I can still see her tearing through the wrapping, so thrilled with every gift (even those not for her!). I can still see her dancing on her back paws, reaching her nose up toward her stocking, knowing it was filled with treats just for her. I can still see her tangled in ribbon and bows, enjoying Christmas morning more than any other day of the year. (It sounds silly, but she really did love gifts!)

I miss her every single day and I probably always will, but I know I can't let my sadness get in the way of having a positive holiday season this year. I know that's not what my sweet little pup would have wanted, and I know it's not fair to my new pup, Barkley, who'll be celebrating her first Christmas in just a couple weeks. Dwelling on the past gets in the way of the present, I know, but it's hard not to find myself lost in the memories of Bella, of the Christmases I spent with her. Here are some of the ways I'm going to do my best to make the most of the holiday season—even during the moments it seems almost impossible. If you're coping with a loss this holiday season, I hope these tips will help you too. 


The more time spent with positive, uplifting people, the easier it is to stay positive and focus on the present. Positivity is contagious and the more it's around you, the more you start to see the good in the world, taking your mind away from dwelling on your loss and reminding you of all that you still have to be thankful for. 



Pushing your grief away isn't a good way to deal with it. (It always comes back, usually at the worst times!) The best way to cope with loss is to face it, to recognize the sadness and understand that it's okay to feel sad. The trick is to give yourself a set amount of time to spend with your sadness so it doesn't turn into a place where you dwell in sorrow. 



It's also a good idea not to shy away from remembering the good times. Recalling the happy memories might seem like it would be more painful than helpful, but it's actually a great way to celebrate the life of the one you've lost. When you find yourself wishing s/he was here, remind yourself of all the good times you had when s/he was with you. 



While avoiding sadness is never a good plan, keeping yourself from dwelling in it is essential for making the most of a difficult time of year. One of the best ways to do this is to stay busy by doing things you love. Whatever your favorite activities are—holiday-themed or otherwise—make time for them. And try to say yes to invitations too. 



Sometimes it can feel wrong to create new memories—as if you're negating the traditions of the past—but making new memories and traditions can help you move forward instead of staying stuck in the past. This doesn't mean you have to let go of old traditions, but creating new ones can provide you with a fresh perspective on the season. 



Getting lots of rest, eating right, and staying active can really help when dealing with a tough time. When you're tired or cranky, any negative emotion you might be feeling can be amplified, seeming much worse that it is. To make you emotional state more manageable, it's important to take care of yourself—not just emotionally, but physically as well. 



Sadly, there are many people struggling with loss during the holiday season. While it might seem counter-intuitive to think of all the loss in the world, it can actually be helpful to remind yourself that you're not the only one struggling to feel festive this year. If you think it might be helpful to connect with others feeling as you, look online for local or online grieving groups. 



Volunteering your time with those who are less fortunate than you—at a homeless shelter, for exmple—can help remind you of all that you have to be thankful for. You might also see how those who have lost a great deal still manage to move forward, reminding you how strong and resourceful we humans can be. If you don't have lots time, consider buying and wrapping a gift for a child in need. 



It's hard, when a loved one is missing from the holiday fun, to allow yourself to feel joyful. It's tempting to feel guilty about enjoying the holiday season, but consider the joy you experience this year as a gift to yourself. You've been through something difficult and you deserve a time of love, joy, and happiness. Remind yourself that your loved would have wanted you to enjoy the holidays. 


I know that this first Christmas will probably be one of the most difficult, and I know that each Christmas season without Bella will probably get easier, but it's still a constant struggle to stay positive, to redirect my mind to the present. Just thinking about her, my eyes fill with tears and I miss her so much that my heart physically hurts, but I keep reminding myself of how much she loved Christmas and how much she hated to see me cry. She would never want me to be unhappy and so, for her (and for myself!), I'm going to do my best to take my own advice, follow these nine tips, and make this season merry.  

why i'm obsessed with christmas movies


"I think you have a problem," my boyfriend said to me one early November night as I bounced from our bedroom to living room, alternating between wrapping gifts on the bed (away from curious puppy paws!) and watching a Hallmark Channel holiday movie I'd seen at least twice before. 

"A problem?" I'd said, distractedly, adjusting the bright red bow I'd just tied atop a festively wrapped gift. 

"Yes," he said, half-joking, half-genuinely concerned, "All these Christmas movies! You're obsessed! It might be a problem." 

I paused to consider his words. Watching Christmas movies is a problem? Yes, I'd seen 142 of them (a number that's grown a bit...okay, a lot...since last month, with new holiday movies debuting weekly on at least four different channels), but what's wrong with that? Okay, I'll admit it: there might be something a little strange about it. But it's been over the course of 30 years! And I almost always watch them while doing something else, so it's not exactly like I've wasted 284 hours of my life! And, well, if I'm doling out half-ass excuses here, I might as well state the obvious: I like them. I rattled off this reasoning to him and went back to wrapping and watching. 

But, being the analytical soul that I am, I couldn't just my boyfriend's comment—however lighthearted—go without giving it some thought. Why did I like those movies so much? The plots are pretty formulaic, the acting is rarely Oscar-worthy, and it's not as if there aren't tons of other films I've yet to see... And, still, every November I'm drawn to them like moth to flame, squealing with excitement at the first commercial announcing their arrival, readying the DVR to handle the holiday-themed hoard. 

The more I thought about it, the more it became obvious why I really enjoyed watching these movies: they contain really positive messages. Almost all of the films have an underlying positive theme, a reminder that things do work out the way they're meant to, that people are, deep down, inherently good. And the more I watch them, the more I'm reminded of the goodness in the world—and isn't that what we all want to be reminded of during the hectic holiday season? Isn't that what we want to see when, in real life, holiday cheer can sometimes seem as mythical as flying reindeer? 

So, in case you're not holiday-movie obsessed like I am, here is a list of the lessons I've taken away from the films, the little reminders that there really can be magic in the holiday season. When it comes down to it, this list is why I'm obsessed with these movies; it sums up the reasons why, cheesy as they might be at times, these holiday films serve to remind me of the ways people—no matter what their circumstances—can find a way to make their lives, or the lives of others, more positive.  



❅ A positive attitude always pays off. (Elf)
❅ Happily ever after is possible. (A Princess for Christmas)
❅ You can do a lot with less. (3 Day Christmas)
❅ We all impact the lives of others. (It's a Wonderful Life)
❅ Christmas doesn't come from a store. (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas)
❅ Differences are make us special, not odd. (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
❅ Love can overcome almost any obstacle. (Love, Actually)
❅ Don't wait until it's too late to change a bad attitude. (It's Christmas, Carol!)
❅ Children deserve more credit that most adults give them. (Home Alone)
❅ You're more capable than you think you are. (The Santa Clause)
❅ What's meant to be has a way of working out. (Serendipity)
❅ Deep down, people are still the same people they were as kids. (Just Friends)
❅ Persistance can really pay off. (A Christmas Story)
❅ Working together works better than going it alone. (Window Wonderland)
❅ Sometimes a change of scenery can change your life. (The Holiday)
❅ It's okay to celebrate in your own unique way. (Shrek the Halls)
❅ Use your skills to help those in need. (Christmas Magic)
❅ If at first you don't succeed (in love), try, try again. (A Bride for Christmas)
❅ Never take loved ones for granted. (The Christmas Box)
❅ There's usually more goodness in people than you realize. (Snow Bride)
❅ It's easier to be honest about who you are. (Christmas in Boston)
❅ Always be careful what you wish for. (The Christmas List)
❅ Sometimes bad luck leads to better luck. (Lucky Christmas)
❅ Do your best to be a good brother (or sister). (Fred Claus)
❅ Old flames can be rekindled. (Catch a Christmas Star)
❅ Love can help heal the broken-hearted. (Christmas with Holly)
❅ Nice guys don't always finish last. (Annie Claus is Coming to Town)
❅ Savor every moment of every day. (Last Holiday)
❅ Love triumphs over differences. (Let It Snow)
❅ Where there is love, there is beauty. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)


So, yeah, it might be a little crazy that I'm obsessed with watching Christmas movies, but after thinking about all the films and meaning behind them, I'm pretty sure there are worse things I could be obsessed with. Just look at all of the positive messages! Even if you're not a fan of the holiday film genre, try giving one a shot this year and see if it doesn't, in some small way, brighten your day.