IT CAN BE A GLORIOUS TIME… IT CAN BE A DIFFICULT TIME

Halloween has just past and the seasons are beginning to change. Here in the city I live it they have not only begun to change, it would seem we went right from summer into winter. What this points to is the holiday season fast approaching. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other holiday this season is a time to gather with friends and family to celebrate. It does not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other faith. It doesn’t even matter if you do not follow any particular faith at all. Usually you will be attending some gathering.

These times can recharge our spirit and sense of belonging. It can, however, do the opposite for many. If you find yourself living away from family and friends you can experience a feeling of longing and being left out. Those who have lost love ones can often be reminded of the pain of that lost most around the holidays. While partaking in long-held traditions the feeling of emptiness can be magnified. Maybe you have recently went through the heartache of ending a relationship. Not having that certain someone to celebrate with can cause your heart to break again. Watching one of those fabulous Hallmark movies, or groups of other enjoying their holiday season can leave you feeling down, even though we think it should have us feeling joyous.

There are two points I would like to make with this point. The first is to not only understand, but be compassionate these feelings are what some of those closest to you may be feeling. They may be doing their best to ‘put on a happy face’ and make it through the holiday festivities. They may be worried about bringing everyone else down because of their sadness. There may even be feelings of guilt because they do not feel as happy as they should. We must treat each other with a special kind of compassion and respect during this holiday season. Just because someone is wearing a holiday smile or a silly holiday sweater doesn’t mean there is not some pain and sadness behind that. We must also remember that many times there is nothing we can do to help them, but just be there to listen and even offer a hug.

The second point, what we can do if we find ourselves to be the ones with sadness this holiday season? We can also practice compassion…with ourselves. We must give ourselves permission to experience our feelings. We must be brave enough to reach out to others for help. That could be a friend, a family member or even a grief counseling group. It is a gift we can give ourselves this holiday season. The grief and sadness you feel may never go away, but it is important to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. There are those who can listen. There are those who can help you cope and be with you throughout the process. I encourage everyone to keep these things in mind during this season.

As I write this, it is the final day of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is the celebration of our loved ones who have passed on. It is not a solomn holiday but one filled with joy and a feeling their relatives are still with them in spirit. This is little consolation to some, but may be a helpful way of looking at it for others. Memories, although they can be bittersweet, are gifts from those who have passed on. There are many ways to connect to others. If your sadness stems from having to be away from your family this holiday, try reaching out with a phone call, skype, text, email or even an old-fashioned letter. As you write you are with those you miss. (as a side note this can also work if someone has passed on) Just healing over the end of a relationship? Honor those feelings and discover new and wonderful traditions you can begin. It is a fresh start and the birth of a whole new way to celebrate.

In closing, this holiday season remember to be kind and compassionate to everyone…including yourself. 

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HOLIDAY WISHES FROM ALL OF US AT SECRET2ANAMAZINGLIFE.COM!

Today, for those who celebrate it, is Christmas. Whether you celebrate this holiday for its religious meaning, or just secularly, or even if you do not celebrate it at all, there are a few things to keep in mind on this day.

First of all, things will be a bit crazy. Roads will be crowded, businesses will be closed or have shortened hours. The weather may even be a bit sketchy in some locations. Remember to exercise patience and caution. As I tell all of my friends and family, “Better to arrive late than not at all.”

Next is the whole gift thing. I must confess being the person who wants to get people the ultimate gift. Not necessarily biggest or most expensive, but just one that will bring the greatest amount of joy. In fact, up until a few days ago, I had been searching and thinking like a mad man for something special for my love Margie. This is exactly the kind of behavior that can ruin the holidays. If you were to stop and think about it, you are giving someone a gift. Even if they do not exactly like what you got them, they should be grateful you thought of them and went out of your way to purchase something for them. Don’t stress over gifts. Give what you can to those you can.

What if you can’t afford gifts this year? That is ok too. Personally, homemade gifts I find to be some of the most treasured. A well thought out poem or card can simply melt a heart and give warm and wonderful feelings all year long. Even giving someone the pleasure of your company or the gift of your undivided attention can mean the world. We all have gifts to offer. Some of us tell jokes and give the gift of laughter. You may be someone who is a great cook and can fill someone’s stomach and their heart with joy. The people willing to pitch in and help clean up after Christmas dinner never go unappreciated. Whoever you are, you can offer a great gift without spending anything.

Lastly, this time of year enjoy the gift of togetherness. Sure, there may be that family member who you don’t exactly see eye to eye with. That’s ok, they help you grow and practice patience and compassion. Be grateful for those who take the time to be with you. Learn from them, share with them and love them. Enjoy some great conversations and give everyone the great gift of being listened to.

Whatever you choose to celebrate this time of year, all of us here at secret2anamazinglife.com wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy and happy holiday season filled with love and laughter.

IT IS FREE, SO WHY NOT?

All this week we have been looking at questioning our thoughts, our beliefs and the inner dialogue we have with ourselves. Today we are going to take a look at something that needs no questioning. It will work with any faith, any belief (at least any healthy belief) and will improve not only your inner dialogue, but your sense of inner-peace and well-being. This is something that we should be doing not only during the holiday season, but all year long.

Making others feel good about themselves. After all, that is the point of gifts we give this time of the year. It is not merely an exchange of material objects, but the thoughts that we remembered those closest to us at a special time of the year. A simple card with a heartfelt message can mean the world to a lonely soul. A genuine compliment and sign of appreciation to a retail employee during a busy holiday shopping season can be a very valuable gift.

This holiday season start a practice to keep alive all year long. Begin today to look for ways to help others feel good about themselves. It doesn’t cost you a thing and can feel priceless to them.

 

TRADITIONS

The Holiday season is almost upon us. At local stores decorations are starting to go up, I even heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day. With the holidays coming up we can find our minds turning toward traditions. There are many different kinds of traditions. There are traditions based on our different faiths. This can encompass many different things from fasting, praying, style of dress and many more. These traditions are very important for cultural reasons. The connect us as a faith-based community and refresh our spiritual nature. There are also different family traditions. These can include shopping for holiday gifts together, creating a holiday meal together or just gathering at a certain family members house for great times. The traditions here can be as unique as the family itself.

The tradition I would like to discuss today is more individual. It can be between spouses, brother and sister, friends or even an individual tradition. The picture I used for this blog post is one of Margie and me at one of our favorite breakfast places. We have been going there since shortly after we met. Sadly, this day we missed another tradition of ours which was an event called ‘Cider Sunday’ in which a local nature preserve celebrates all things apple. We also have other traditions that we have began. Most of them both add love to our life, as well as keeping that love fresh and fun. Do you have something like this with the love of your life? Maybe a special place you go on a birthday? Maybe an event you look forward to attending every year? Do you celebrate the first day of spring by having a picnic in the park for example?

If you do not have a romantic tradition, or would like to include more, why not get together with your love today and discuss that? This also works with brother and sisters, friends, coworkers and anyone else you would like to include. My suggestion is this, create traditions that help that relationship grow. Maybe something that fosters a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in the relationship, or perhaps a way to grow and learn together? In the case of romantic partners, use Margie and me as an example. Create traditions that feed love and keep it fresh and growing.

Personal traditions may be something that is not as familiar with a lot of you, but I think they can have a great impact on our lives. Perhaps start a tradition of keeping a gratitude journal every night or at the very least once a week. A daily or weekly meditation practice could serve you as well. They can be traditions that add joy to your life. I do things to celebrate the first day of spring and summer each year. I also attend a bicycle expo every year as it helps me look forward to spring and being able to get out and ride.

Feel free to share any traditions you have with us in the comments below. Whether they are Faith, family, romantic or personal. This way we can all inspire each other with great ideas!

 

MORE TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Ah… the holiday season. Filled with great joy, family and feelings of love and gratitude. Sometimes, however, it is also filled with stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. It seems we need another hour or a couple of hours in our days to get everything done. There is shopping, finding the perfect gift for people we discover we do not know as well as we thought we did. Often there is either travel, or preparing for the arrival of people who are traveling to see us. We have to shop and prepare meals considering everyone’s likes, food allergies and culture restrictions. Not only do we have all of these things to consider, but we also have our regular obligations of work, housecleaning and parenting as well.

Sadly, there is no way to extend the daily deadline beyond 24 hours. How then, can we gain more time during the holidays? The man above you might recognize, his name is Albert Einstein. world-famous physicist. He developed the theory of relativity. I found this hard to grasp when it came to time. How can time be relative? Is not an hour always 60 minutes?

I found the answer, and a great explanation on the theory of relativity in a most unlikely place. There is a home-improvement store here called Menards. On the bottom of all of their sales ads they have motivational sayings in real fine print. One fine day while pondering why I even live in a place where I would need a snow blower, I found the answer I was looking for. On the bottom of the page read “How long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on.” While I would love to claim credit for that great bit of wisdom I cannot.

How does this translate to the relativity of time, and more importantly, how can it help us gain more time during the holidays? Think of that situation if you will. Yes, it is odd that a self-improvement website will ask you to think of spending time in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that is when some of my greatest ideas come to me. Have you ever had to use the bathroom when somebody else is doing the same? Every second can seem like an eternity. If you are the person on the inside the time would certainly seem different, yet they are exactly the same amount of time.

That is the most poignant example I have seem, but doesn’t the same thing happen to us during the holidays? It seems when we have one more place to stop and it closes in a half an hour that is when we get into the line with the sweet little old lady paying for her cartload of groceries with change…of which she has to count out by hand. Wait, did she just loose count and have to begin again? How long have I been in this line? How about preparing meals. I have experienced this first hand. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean I actually prepared the meal. Watching Margie work so hard during the holidays to make sure everything is done at the same time, and that time being close to when our guests arrive is crazy. Especially when you have to consider everything cooks at a different rate.

You may be thinking this is great Neil, and I have spent part of my holiday time reading this article and other than a entertaining bathroom analogy, you haven’t told me a single thing I can do to help my holiday craziness. Fair enough. Let us explore a few simple things we can do that will not only help us make better use of our time, but take the stress out of the time that we do spend, allowing us to enjoy more of what this time of year is all about.

The most important thing that can change our holiday is focus. When we are stuck in the slowest line in the store, focusing on that can only raise our stress level and blood pressure. What if we chose that time to try and focus on what we have to be thankful for. During the holidays that is something we all can count on and is a great gift to give ourselves. Even just a distraction whether it be reading those informative magazines telling us what the royal family is doing, or where Elvis, who is really alive, is spending his Christmas. Try to find the most interesting or amusing headline. Think of a nice thing you can say to the cashier, who truly is under a great deal of stress themselves.

Another great thing we can do is think about the outcome we are striving for. Is the goal to provide a tasty and enjoyable meal our family can gather around and share the holiday? Then does it matter if the steamed vegetables end up being part of dessert or the gravy is not as smooth as we would like? Sure, it would be great if the meal was perfect, but that is not what the holidays are all about, and nobody will expect that. What if something goes terribly wrong? One year my aunt was supposed to watch a pot of soup that was baking as the rest of us went to pick up some other relatives. She…well…I am not sure what she did other than it wasn’t watch the soup. It burned and had to be thrown away. The entire pot tasted terrible, but there was other food and it is still a story we laugh about today.

That brings us to our last point, find ways to laugh. Nothing is that serious and it is often things that go wrong that make the funniest and most entertaining holiday memories. Find a way to laugh, it will make a great holiday gift to everyone you share the holiday with. In that vein of thinking, try finding ways to genuinely compliment as many people as you can. Know and understand each of us face unique holiday stress and all of us would appreciate some kind words.

Please feel free to share your holiday stress relieving ideas in the comments below. Working together we can make the holidays better for everyone.

HOW TO STAY HEALTHY THIS WINTER

This season there will be lots of focus on what to eat, wear and do to stay healthy. Winter(The season it is where I live) can be very cold with temperatures well below the freezing mark.

I recall as a young man my mother making sure I wore the warmest, and quite often the most ridiculous clothes I owned. This often called for what we can safely call a wardrobe adjustment before arriving at school.

I remember being fed chicken soup when I was feeling under the weather. I remember some of the great tasting children’s medicine I was given. How they think that tastes like bubble gum I’ll never know.

One area that was never mentioned was the importance of my thoughts and emotions on my health. We all know when we are stressed our physical body changes. When we are mad we breathe different, our blood pressure rises. When we are nervous our stomach can get quesy.

What we may not stop to consider is how this affects our immune system. The leading cause of both physical breakdown and aging in the body is stress. It also happens to be the leading cause of heart disease in the industrialized world.

This is why making sure we take care of ourselves and those we care about emotionally this holiday season is so important. It cannot only keep them from getting the cold or flu, but quite literally save their life. I can’t think of a better gift to give.

How can we make sure to help each other? Have patience when waiting on longer lines while shopping. Be extra nice to the person working at the store, especially if they seem extra stressed. Give relatives a call just to say hello and do everything in our power to spread the gift of joy and positivity during a season where it is most needed.

P.S. – my book A Happy Life for Busy People not only contains many tips for reducing stress during the holidays, it makes a great gift too!