By: Ama Larsen, Faculty Member, Online Bachelor of Social Work Program, Spring Arbor University
Christmas is a time of escape for many of us. During the Christmas holiday, we enjoy moments with friends and family, share gifts, eat, relax, and indulge our favorite pastimes. Like other holidays, Christmas brings us closer together.
Doing the things we enjoy most with the people we love lets us make new memories.
This Christmas, what do you anticipate your social gatherings to be like? Hopefully they will be positive. However, for many of us, Christmas can bring with it the sting of bad memories and past trauma associated with the holidays.
The human brain has a way of storing connections based on experience and repetition. A therapist once reminded me that negative memories weigh more than positive memories.
This is because negative memories play a larger role in ensuring our survival. In this way, they contribute to protecting us from potential future harm. If we focus on remembering past mistakes that led to trauma, we can avoid repeating them and spare ourselves future pain and suffering.
However, these mental strongholds of negativity can be washed clean by cultivating new positive experiences. And it’s important to remember that we can create for these experiences for ourselves.
Reframing the way we think requires time and effort, but there are ways in which we can create new patterns of thought.
Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, in their Wall Street Journal number one bestselling book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, say, “Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.” It is in the doing that we free ourselves from the captivity of negative emotions like despair and misery.
In the escape of the bustling and gathering for Christmas, many of us also experience a euphoria born of having set aside our needs to provide for others.
To see the people we love smile, to know they feel the love we have for them, born from our gestures, charity, and generosity makes it all worthwhile.
Just keep in mind that your thoughtfulness doesn’t have to have to come at the cost of a price-tag. In fact, this year alone, it is expected that the United States will spend over a trillion dollars on Christmas presents and decor.
This adds up to the fact that the average American will also run themselves into significant debt during the holiday season.
We all love getting presents we love, but gifts do not always have to be purely material. They can include our undivided attention, company, or presence. A gift can be the expression of meaningful words, sincere gestures, or just the act of being available for loved ones to share their thoughts and emotions.
Ultimately, the year 2020 can be the start of a new beginning. We may not be granted all our wishes, but we can be assured we have what it takes to live a fulfilling life this upcoming year.
We should all strive to be intentional in achieving the goal of living a life of positivity and selflessness.
Embrace the newness, the uncharted trails, and do what it takes to escape the weight of negative experience.
Wishing everyone a wonderful, merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2020!
Investopedia. (n.d.). Average cost of an American Christmas. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1112/average-cost-of-an-american-christmas.aspx