When life is hard, the holiday season can magnify your difficulties. Traditionally this was a time of harvest, a time to sit down with the community and feast on what we had grown collectively. While you (hopefully) have enough to eat, there might be other "crops" in your life that didn't have a great year for growing. Your friends or family may impose their opinions of your harvest, and that can be adding to feeling stressed.
And let's face it, our minds don't spin every tragic event with optimism. This time of year can be an excellent opportunity for reflection and inner work. Below are three principles that can help us prepare and endure the season and holidays to come. If you're so inclined, carve out a little time, even a few minutes, to be free from distractions and contemplate the following:
It's easy to mistake patience for simple inaction. Think of it not as waiting, but acting at an opportune time. We plant and harvest our "crops" based on when the situations are correct. Patience is a "big picture" principle. We use patience to get through and solve very difficult challenges.
Whether we're looking for our next big opportunity or we're just dealing with difficult people, patience may be the skill that allows us to handle the situation smoothly. In many cases practicing patience helps us make better decisions, not to mention strengthening our character.
Take some time to ask yourself, "Where do I need to practice patience right now?" "How will I recognize the opportune time to act?"
Gratitude helps us maintain a realistic perspective and access creative solutions. When our minds experience an emotion, we find information that fits it. When we get angry, we find more reasons to be angry; the same is true for happiness. The holidays are loaded with emotions as our lives are absorbed with family and friends. Intentionally looking for gratitude is a strategy to counter afflictive thoughts and emotions, and deepen the feelings that strengthen us.
To find gratitude, you may find it helps if you close your eyes; imagine your breath traveling into your torso and filling you with a white light and then ask yourself, "What things am I grateful for in this moment?" Concentrate on this until you find answers. See if you can hold onto that feeling and reconnect with it throughout the day.
We are the company we keep, food we eat, air we breathe, thoughts we harbor and the words we share. In the communities of our bodies, things work best when they are cooperating and the same is true in our social lives. No matter how functional or dysfunctional our group, we choose how we interact with them and it has a big impact on us. Feeling connection to our community gives us a sense of belonging and purpose, and this motivates us to perform our best (provided our group isn't terribly toxic to our lives). We are constantly shaping the world within us and it is reflected by the world around us. We are a part of our environment and our environment is a part of us as well.
Ask yourself, "How do I want to live in my community?" and when you find your answer, further it by asking, "What can I do, right now, to affirm that?"
Michael Stanclift, ND
Naturopathic Doctor - Carlsbad, California
*This post was originally published on the Huffington Post, by Dr. Michael Stanclift, ND