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The Art of Enjoying the Holidays (for the Rest of Us) in Two Steps

From this point forward, I hereby give you permission to do the holidays differently. To make conscious choices. And to be happier, which is the best gift you can give yourself and everyone around you.
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Snow-covered tree branch at sunset
Snow-covered tree branch at sunset

If you love the end-of-the-year holiday season, this is not for you. You may stop reading now. Please continue to fa-la-la and ho-ho-ho your way through the rest of the year.

Everyone else? Gather 'round.

This time of year can be loaded with expectations. The way the holiday is supposed to look. To taste. The way you are supposed to feel. Like you live in one of the lifestyle catalogs that weigh down your mailbox this month.

Brene Brown says, "Expectations are resentments under construction."

Maybe you are tired of the year-after-year routine? Obligatory decorations and parties? The same soundtrack everywhere you go? If you are following the holiday script and it's not something you want or enjoy, it feels like drudgery with resentment not far away.

I am here to tell you: It's OK. And you know what else? You don't have to do any of it.

You don't have to:
- shop
- listen to Christmas songs
- put up a tree or lights
- bake cookies
- wrap things in ribbons and bows
- cook a roast beast
- set a fancy dining table
- watch the Grinch or Rudolf or Frosty
- travel
- or even like the holidays.

Many holiday traditions are so ingrained in our culture that we tell ourselves we have to do them. But really, do you? Is anyone, literally, forcing you?

Saying "I have to" renders you powerless. You set yourself up as a victim of a self-created, nebulous, overpowering force that robs you of free will.

Try changing "I have to" to "I choose to" and see how each task feels. Is it something you actually want to choose?

Perhaps, as you consider your list of have-to/choose-tos, you may be thinking: But what about my children/family/neighbors? If I don't ____ their holiday is ruined.

That's a backdoor "I have to". The thing is, the greatest gift you can give anyone - you, your kids, the world - is a happy you. All the bows and bling in the world can't make up for a tired, stressed, grumpy you.

If you want to enjoy the holidays, start creating a holiday you can enjoy in two steps:
  1. Do more of what you like
  2. Do less of what you don't like

It's pretty simple - and radical. It might feel a little scary to consider bucking the holiday traditions. But doing less of what you don't like doesn't necessarily mean you don't do those things at all. Try applying the 3 B's to your have-tos: bag it, barter it, better it.

Bag it - For the things you absolutely don't want to and don't choose to do. Choose to not do it. Then don't do it. Period.

Barter it - Get someone else to do it for you by trading tasks or paying.

Better it - Look at how you can make the task better. Schedule it for first thing in the morning? Do it with a friend? Listen to your favorite music? Be creative and consider any possibility that makes the task more pleasant/less onerous. As a bonus, give yourself a reward when you finish.

From this point forward, I hereby give you permission to do the holidays differently. To make conscious choices. And to be happier, which is the best gift you can give yourself and everyone around you.