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Joy and sorrow at Christmas

Christmas, for many of us, is a mixed bag. There’s tinsel, sparkle, Christmas parties and Ho, ho, ho. But there can be disappointment, loneliness, grief and loss too.

I remember the Christmases I spent as a single woman in London. Going out for drinks with friends and work colleagues, having fun, but then getting the bus back home on my own and waking up in an empty flat.

I remember the joy of spending Christmas morning with my young nephew as he tore into his presents, but then the sadness of not having children of my own. I used to look longingly at the couples and families around me at Christmas, wondering what it would feel like to be part of a team, to belong.

Christmas brings huge expectations. You only have to switch on the TV for a moment to see images of festive family bliss – Jamie Oliver and his huge clan, or the mum who’s gone to Iceland to buy food for the masses who’ll gather at her home. It’s so easy to believe that everyone else has got it sorted and is having a wonderful time – that the perfect picture we see on the outside is a true reflection of what’s going on inside. But so often it’s not, and I find it helps to know that.

This time of year also brings memories – of all the Christmases past. Of the first Christmas we spent as a child after our parents split up or after our Granny died, of the first Christmas we experienced sadness or loneliness.

It’s an emotional time.

Even now, engaged to be married to a wonderful man, I can focus on the things I don’t have (in my case, children). I can assume that everyone else’s Christmas is better than mine, more joyous and happier, more filled with love. I can think that somehow I’ve got it wrong, I’ve got life wrong, while everyone else has got it right.

Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you’ve got life wrong?

If so, can I reassure you there is no right or wrong, no better or worse. There’s only what is.

I believe that embracing ‘what is’ rather than chasing ‘what if’ will lead to a much happier Christmas. Here are five suggestions that might help you to do that:

Connect to your feelings

We have to feel it to heal it. The feelings are there anyway and they’ll come out sideways unless we make a conscious effort to connect with them. Resist the temptation to run around, stay busy and numb the feelings with food or drink (as I used to do). Instead, practise sitting still and allowing them to rise to the surface. The process might be painful, but this is where the magic happens.

Practise thankfulness

I know it’s hard to feel grateful for all that we have if we feel there’s something missing in our lives (a relationship or a family), but research points to the profound benefits of an attitude of gratitude. So take a moment to pause and give thanks, for your health, for the people you do have in your life and for the love you have around you. Put it down on paper at the end of the day and review it in the morning. Say it out loud.

Practise acceptance

It takes so much energy to hold onto envy, bitterness and regret. Believe me, I know. Acceptance brings peace. It calms our mind and settles our spirit. It increases our happiness and wellbeing – and we’re much more attractive when in that happy state.

Cultivate trust

Trust that everything is unfolding exactly as it should be, according to God’s plan. Easier said than done, I know, but trying to control outcomes is exhausting and railing against the way things have turned out is futile. Trust. Hope. Have faith. Again, we’ll be much better company like this.

Get excited

Once you’ve taken time to feel your feelings and have managed to cultivate some gratitude, acceptance and trust, start to open your eyes and your mind to all the amazing possibilities before you. What do you want 2018 to bring and how are you going to make that happen? Create a positive vision for your life and plan small actions that will help turn that vision into a reality.

Christmas might be a jumble of emotions for you, but it is for many of us, despite what those TV adverts want us to believe. But wherever you are in your life, I hope there’s more joy than sorrow this year and I hope you can get excited about what lies ahead.

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