Christmas is a holiday I look forward to every year. My mother taught me the joy of Christmas, as she enthusiastically planned dinners, decorated the tree, and invited cherished loved ones to visit.

I feel the joy she feels, and am conscious of passing this beautiful feeling on to my children.

However, I am also aware that this genuinely abundant feeling can get caught up in the misdirection of materialism. It can also get lost in the politics of merging two traditions (in my case, my husband’s and mine), and sharing enough time with each family member and dear friend.

For years, these three “issues” caused me unnecessary stress. I focused on those three only, and forgot about my primary value of the joy of the season. For years the gifts had to be “even”, the hours with each side if the family had to be even, but the traditions that created that joy? Well, I had to do them. After all, the tinsel placed just right and the stocking overflowing with gifts were what Christmas was all about…wasn’t it?

Then one year I decided to forgo the anxiety (and perhaps just got a little bit wiser), and focused on the moments of happiness, and the activities that brought me joy.

How did I shift my thinking? I formed these three holiday rules:

1. Focus on the moment.

When I created a visiting schedule, I focused on the people I would be seeing – I enjoyed adding names of loved ones. I didn’t focus on those I wouldn’t see that day.

Then each day, I became fully present with those in the room, virtually eliminating worries.

2. Simply do your best.

And know that your best is good enough.

When I spend my time with family, I give my best to the family who is present. When I see friends, I give my best to them. If I need a 20 minute shut eye, it is better to take it if there is time, than to power through a whole evening being tired.

When we focus on joy (or another favorite core feeling), then our mind isn’t cluttered with “what ifs,” and should I’s.” Instead, we can put our best effort into being joyful.

3. Practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the core teachings of Christmas. It relieves us of the heaviness of our human responsibilities.

Instead of being caught up in our errors, we can forgive ourselves and move into a lighter perspective, into a more joyful outlook. This benefits everyone involved.

We can also forgive others for their human learnings. Remember, we can only do our best.

And wouldn’t you know it, when the desire for joy was my primary motivator to be in the moment, to do my best, and to be more forgiving, then I en-JOYed the holidays even more!i also noticed that when the planning details were no longer the focus, then traditions merged nicely, we spent lots of time with family, and giving gifts created happiness, while getting gifts was merely a pleasing side effect.

Hope you feel your best during the holidays, filled with love, and loving moments.

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