Just like Frosty who’ll “be back again next year”, traditions help us to connect with the past, while giving meaning to our lives. They help children to create their identity and to strengthen family bonds. Take time to explain your family’s traditions to your kids and involve them in creating new ones.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life: Cherish your connections
Research has shown the quality and quantity of an individual’s relationships is practically equal to their level of happiness. In the classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence reminds George, “no man’s a failure who has friends”. Take the time this season to focus more on friends and family and less on what you think things “should be like”.
3. Elf: Be playful
Your kids are happiest when they are connected with and playing with you. Schedule in time to be more like Buddy in Elf and less like his grumpy old dad. Have a snowball fight, stuff cotton balls in your mouth, make spaghetti with maple syrup for breakfast! Even if you choose a less elf-like route, connecting with your kids on their level helps them feel understood and special. It might even rival that new shiny toy you just bought them!
4. Rudolph: Don’t be a Bumble
I know many kids who didn’t like Rudolph until they were older because they were afraid of the loud, scary Bumble. I’m reticent to say I’ve had my fair share of Bumble moments at high stress times during the holidays. And while effective in the short-term, we’re learning that yelling can have a much greater impact long-term than previously thought. So plan ahead, pare down on activities, and take care of yourself so that you can be less Bumble and more like Buddy the Elf with your kids.
5. Charlie Brown: Lower your expectations
While we all have a vision of what the “Perfect Christmas” looks like, it can be extremely painful trying to attain that storybook image. Studies demonstrate unrealistic goals promote a sense of failure, a poor sense of self-efficacy, self-esteem and even depression. So instead, pull a Charlie Brown: we may all get distracted by trying to make things perfect, but ultimately if we can remember the true meaning of Christmas, the Charlie Brown Tree won’t matter as much.
6. A Christmas Carol: Beware of materialism
It’s a classic theme in our Christmas stories and yet many of us still spend most of our time preparing for the holidays by shopping. Studies show that a focus on materialism negatively impacts overall satisfaction, levels of compassion, and the meaning we experience in our lives. So let’s take a step back like Scrooge did and consider what REALLY makes us happy, the stuff or the people, and then let’s get us more of that!
7. White Christmas: Express gratitude
In the Bing Crosby classic, an entire battalion travels to show their gratitude to a man who had led them in war. Take the time to thank those people who helped to make you who you are even if it means taking time away from your busy life. Not only will the gratitude be cherished by whoever receives it, but the giver’s happiness quotient will spike. Want an even bigger happiness bonus? Surprisingly, thanking people in person makes it a much more potent act for the gratitude giver.
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Practice Forgiveness
People change. The Winter Warlock did, Burgermeister Meisterburger did, the Bumble did, heck the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes! Studies show that forgiveness can reduce stress, blood pressure, anger, and depression and it can increase optimism, hope and compassion. We all have Grinchy moments, so practice some empathy, forgive and MOVE ON.
9. The Polar Express: Believe
Just like the young boy in Polar Express, having a faith in something bigger than ourselves instills a sense of hope and optimism. Even if you’re a devote atheist, believing in the goodness of humanity or the miracle of life can be enough.
10. The Grinch: Give yourself a break
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and Grinchy and you’re tempted to stuff someone’s tree up their chimney, take a break. You don’t have to go to every holiday event, get the “perfect” gift or even send out all those holiday cards you haven’t addressed yet. The holidays will be more memorable and ultimately more enjoyable if you take a break and do something for yourself, like cuddling on the couch with your kiddos and watching some wonderful old Christmas classics!