The Holidays- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s (and I’ll toss in my birthday since it’s on Jan. 2nd) are often incredibly busy and incredibly stressful.  There’s family gatherings, enormous banquet sized meals to be prepared, parties to host and attend, gifts to be chosen, purchased, wrapped, shipped and then remembering to than those who did the same for you…an endless number of additional “tasks”.  Yet this is supposed to be the happy, fluffy, cozy and warm time of the year.  Sometimes it sounds and feels like boot camp instead.

One of the things I’ve started to do is spend some time around the holidays being a bit more reflective.  I miss my Dad and Grandma at this time of year, but I try to think of how proud they would be of the children, of me, of what we’re doing.  I make an effort to count my blessings and all the wonderful things going right in my life, instead of enumerating the faults, failings, shortcomings, stress, and other negative things that it’s so easy to focus on.  The process of taking stock and concentrating on the positive helps center me.  It helps me remember how truly fortunate I am, and continue to see my glass as more than half full, instead of focusing on the “more”.

This doesn’t mean settling.  I set new goals, look ahead, but also try to keep things within the range of what can be accomplished.  Dreamscapes are important, but pathways to these dreams are even more critical.  The path is often a more relevant focal point than the horizon.  The horizon will get nearer and nearer the more I tend to the immediate steps on the path, rather than focusing on a point that sometimes can seem like it never gets much closer.

I get as much out of writing posts like the last one, reflecting on the wonderful people in my life, (people like Steve Sherlock and Dave LaMorte, And Sooz who I forgot to thank before) as anyone I write about gets out of hearing how terrific I think they are.  I feel better for having acknowledged how important they are to me, and it helps bring more kindness into the world.  I think we spend too much time evaluating how the world falls short of our expectations, rather than appreciating the good fortune that comes our way.

Sure, I complain and whine as much as the next person.  But I have made it a policy to acknowledge the good- good service in a restaurant, pleasant people, anything that exceeds my expectations.  Like the guy at the local coffee shop who makes every latte with a design- he even did a pumpkin on my last latte, making the act of getting coffee seem just special and fun- this is something to appreciate and remark on.  It is my personal purple cow.

And the deep dark secret here is when you start looking and acknowledging the good instead of the imperfections, your life is a lot more pleasant.  You still have yucky days from time to time, but on the whole, the undercurrent of negativity begins to go away and you are left feeling much more satisfied, less stressed, and a whole lot happier than ever before.

So to me, the secret of happiness at the busiest and most stessful time of the year is to take those moments and count the blessings.  Make an effort to thank people who do a little something extra or thoughtful.  They’re more likely to do it again for you or someone else if they feel their actions are appreciated, and you will feel beter having helped make someone’s day.  Spreading joy is so much better than spreading misery, and to me, this is what the holidays should really be about.