the not so secret sauce for an enjoyable holiday season

If you thought this was a cooking blog, sorry to disappoint. I’m sure you can find some goodies in the rest of your Google search. Wait though, what I’m offering up might be of interest to even the foodies among us. As we look forward to the holidays, we all want to look back on them with a favorable memory and a satisfied heart when they’re all said and done. But if navigating the holidays were that easy, we would all do them well.

Oftentimes our holidays are filled with anxiety, stress, and relational strife. For many, the hardest part to digest (keeping the foodies who are still reading engaged) is when we look back and realize that we contributed to our mess. What if there was a secret sauce that could help us experience the holidays this year and come out on the other side with a smile on our face, and a warm feeling in our heart? I believe there is.

The not so secret holiday sauce I am referring to is contentment.

Contentment is a close cousin to gratitude, often the focus of Thanksgiving, which may last only a short while because we are inundated by the Black Friday ads that pound us on Thanksgiving Day, and even before. It is so easy in our world to get sucked into the vortex of discontent, believing we won’t be happy unless we have that new product (or that new relationship). For many of us, our pattern is a quick (though genuine) nod to Thanksgiving and then onto the annual holiday ritual of Fill the Deficiencies.

Gratitude, like contentment, is good for the heart. Contentment is slightly different in that its focus is on acceptance of the moment, a vigilant stance that the heart will not be swayed by the swirling winds of what’s trending.

So how do you grab hold of contentment in the mix (foodies, you still paying attention?) of all that’s your holiday season? Here are a few ideas…

Idea #1:

Distinguish between wants and needs. There are certainly things that we need, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting what we need. The danger lies in when we want what we want, which is an different list of possession or situations. Take an inventory, and ask yourself the important question. Don’t let the wants rule the day. Negativity will steal from you faster than anything else.

Idea #2:

Acknowledge that in many cases the “what you don’t haves” have been a blessing. How many times have we looked back and been grateful we did not get what we want in the impulse of the moment? Something or Someone saved us from a train wreck of a purchase, a painful experience or relationship. If we could get every single thing that we wanted as quickly as we wanted it, him or her, I really believe we would find life to be pretty empty.

Idea #3:

Remind yourself as often as necessary that contentment is entirely up to you. No one, no thing, no lifestyle can give it to you. Post this truth on your mirror, in your car, make a phone notification. Contentment is an inside job. By focusing on who you are, whose you are, not focusing on what is wrong with your world and what you don’t have- that’s the sauce. No one can take away or give you contentment. Only you can do that for yourself, and that’s good news. Contentment is really entirely up to you.

If you can find a way to hang onto these ideas through the holiday season, and use them to remind yourself that yes, contentment is your goal, and yes, you can decide that you are in charge of your contentment, then you will very likely experience a warm, enjoyable and fulfilling feeling throughout and after the holiday season.

Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Contentment is up to you, and you can do it! The secret is in your sauce!

Greg Griffin is a Pastoral Counselor in private practice in Marietta. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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