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The Emotional Highs of Christmas

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If there were a gauge to measure highs and lows throughout the year, the emotional high would be December. Higher volumes of advertising, lights, music and TV--all geared to pump us up and create a heightened sense of rah-rah--permeate every aspect of affluent western society.

If there were a gauge to measure highs and lows throughout the year, the emotional high would be December. Higher volumes of advertising, lights, music and TV all geared to pump us up and create a heightened sense of rah-rah permeate every aspect of affluent western society.

While some people approach Christmas with balance and modesty, others get seduced by the marketing and get on to the commercial high only to realize once it's over that "what goes up must come down." The emotional hangover comes in January, which has the highest depression and suicide rates of the year.

Still others decide they can't handle the high-low effect anymore, so they drop the celebration of Christmas altogether and become party-poopers. In the past, they probably approached it with unrealistic expectations. When these went unfulfilled, they became gun-shy of setting themselves up for further disappointment.

In both cases, people rob themselves of the single largest party on the planet, celebrated by more than 3.5 billion people around the world.

Christmas can be a great event if you approach it with sound principles. Principles based on truth will never disappoint you. Conversely, expectations built on illusions will always let you down. Let's take a look at five principles that can make this Christmas the best one ever:

1. Take stock of your values.

We all have values. Values are the engine of our soul. They're what motivate us. Powerful programming mechanisms, like those of a guided missile, they determine what we go after in life.

What's scary is that if we don't teach ourselves to become aware of our values, we can go through life unconscious of their influence. For example, if we head into Christmas with unhealthy materialistic values, it can create a performance expectation on others by insinuating an obligation to give. This is self-defeating: if material things are what we value, then (like alcohol) they will never be enough.

Write your Christmas values on a piece of paper. Review them and ask yourself which ones have to go. Then reconstruct your Christmas values to produce what you want instead of what you don't want.

2. Resist emotional highs.

If you want to reduce the downers in your life, don't allow yourself to go on artificial highs. We all know people who flip and flop between high or low: being around them is exhausting. Because it's easier to see this in other people, we need to examine ourselves for this type of behaviour.

3. Beware: family can bring up buried emotions.

It's an illusion to think that buried emotions stay buried. What they actually do is germinate and grow larger. Go home and be prepared to have emotions surface that usually don't. (Family events will trigger them.) Be courageous and committed to working through the process of forgiveness and accepting people for who they are with both strengths and weaknesses. People will never be perfect, so drop your expectations of what they should or should not do. Often, when we see things in people that drive us crazy, it's because these things are within ourselves, which we unconsciously judge and don't like.

If a family member's behaviour is particularly offensive, set boundaries. If he or she doesn't respect them, then learn to ignore the behaviour and rise above it or you will become one of its victims. Ignoring poor behaviour will disempower it.

4. Participate: Don't be a party-pooper.

Co-operate, show up and invest your effort to make whatever events you attend a success.

Anything great and worth having usually comes from applying a principle. One of life's greatest principles is that it is more blessed to give than receive. Make it your goal to experience the magic of giving not just material goods, but your time and care to others. It's the only principle that gives you an emotional high that will endure as long as you keep practising it.

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