Articles and posts abound on the internet and social media sites suggest that the holiday season poses a challenge to us humans – particularly this one. In past holiday seasons, folks claimed that it was difficult to be happy in overcrowded airports; that it is impossible to stay civil when it comes to spending time with relatives who try our patience. There were lots of things to dread.
This year’s holiday season promises to be very different from seasons past, simply from our necessary reactions to the pandemic. Many of us won’t be in airports, flying off to visit relatives, but rather staying at home. We’ll be trying to master the technicalities of video conferencing instead.
While we won’t be in close proximity to those who try our patience, we’ll still be making those connections – because it’s the holidays. Expectations run high, and those not met can leave us frustrated or sad. So what can we do?
It is a well-researched fact that we move toward what we are thinking about, because human beings think in pictures. If someone tells us NOT to think about a purple elephant, because the words “purple elephant” draw a pretty specific picture, we are going to have a challenge thinking of something else. If we think about how unhappy we are going to be, home alone, we don’t stand much of a chance of enjoying the experience.
The thing is, we have the ability to decide how we are going to react to situations. Typically, we can’t change the situation, but we can change how we react to it. We can choose to be miserable and irritated, and our minds will go right to work at helping us see everything that makes the situation worse. It’s called the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, aided and abetted by our heightened awareness of what we are looking for.
However, the self-fulfilling prophecy can be pointed in a different direction. We all know that something as simple as a smile can diffuse tension – in yourself and in the receiver of the heartfelt smile you give. It is also contagious! Just try not smiling back when you are on the receiving end of an honest, heartfelt smile – even if it is behind a mask. (The crinkly eyes give it away.)
A smile is easy, quick and costs little. And a smile uses fewer muscles and less energy than a frown. It’s the perfect holiday gift! So, for today, give the world around you a smile, and see how it transforms the world inside you.