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Ultimate Hacks For The Best Christmas Ever

Ultimate Hacks For The Best Christmas Ever

This website is called Lifehack, right? Tips for Life. Well, let me share the best principle I know to hack your Christmas.

Christmas is getting very complicated: gone are the days of a family dinner and a few presents. Now, Christmas includes:

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  • Family dinners (sometimes several)
  • Christmas parties (for work or service organizations)
  • Community Christmas events, like concerts, parades and fundraisers
  • Children’s Christmas events, like concerts or visiting Santa
  • Church/Religious events (concerts, special services, etc)
  • Travelling for family/social events (driving or flying)
  • Taking a Christmas vacation (usually somewhere warm)
  • Giving gifts to close family
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Holiday decorating
  • Holiday baking or special cooking
  • Socializing informally with friends
  • Special entertainment events
  • … all the organizing the above events/activities
  • … all the legwork for the above events/activites

Of course, included in “giving gifts to close family” is shopping (which can take up a lot of time), and deciding on the gifts (which can be very stressful), buying (which adds money pressure) and wrapping. In fact, each item on the list above has a whole slew of complications that can arise, and I’m sure you are familiar with them all. The great part is, you can “hack” your Christmas using this principle:

Keep what you like, and ditch what you don’t.

Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to do everything associated with Christmas. You can opt out of any part of it at any time, for any reason: for your sanity, because you are simply too busy, or because your in-laws are unpleasant, unkind people. For any reason at all, you can just decide to say no to any part you do not enjoy, find inspiring, or have time for. I know this might sound overly simple, but it really can be that straightforward. Which parts of Christmas do you like? Which aspects stress you out? What things excite you? Which parts are just plain unrealistic?

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As someone who grew up without Christmas, I believe I am uniquely qualified to talk about leaving things out. The religion my parents belonged to didn’t celebrate Christmas, or any of the mainstream holidays, so I grew up without any of the trappings of the holiday season. Although I now celebrate this time of year, I am lucky that I have no baggage about what to participate in and what to leave off: I celebrate Christmas in my own unique way.

If you think you might take a little flak from others when you opt out of something, just think of me, growing up without any Christmas at all. Was I teased at school? You bet. Was I the weirdo? Big time. If you choose to opt out of a Christmas event and someone bugs you about it, at least be glad you aren’t the weirdo of the school! Let the critical person say what they want to say, listen, and ask yourself this:

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  • Is this person really important to me?

If you answered *no*, then smile sweetly and say something like “well, however you choose to celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a lovely time.” Don’t debate or discuss your decision—it’s really none of their business!

If this person is *somewhat important* to you, then you may choose to elaborate a bit, giving some reasons for your decision. Don’t let their feelings influence your decision, however. You have to live your own life and make your own unique way in it.

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If you answered *yes*, then you need to consider why this person is reacting so strongly/badly. Is it because:

  • they are just generally stressed out? Stop everything, and show them that you care. Reach out, give them a neck rub, offer to do something to lighten their load or simply remind them you love them.
  • they are surprised by your decision? Apologize for this coming “out of the blue” and explain why you need to simplify Christmas. Listen to what they have to say.
  • they are under stress from obligations or others’ expectations? Talk about it. Remind them that they can say “no” to things too—we always have options. Reassure them that you want to support them, but you also need to be true to yourself.
  • they have some valid points/reasons for doing the things you want to ditch?Listen. Try to put your personal biases aside and truly listen. Use this opportunity to connect more deeply with this person, and come to a compromise.

If you want to propose a major change to your Christmas schedule, it is best if you don’t shove it on your spouse/family at the last minute—that is always more stressful. Dropping a bomb on someone is not very considerate, and using the “but I gotta be me!” line is not going to go over very well then. Try to bring it up well in advance, and when there is time to discuss it further.

I offer one last caution: don’t use this as an excuse to withdraw from everything. At this darkest time of year (literally, around the winter solstice), getting together with friends is important to keep depression at bay and help the days to pass. Good luck hacking your best Christmas!

Featured photo credit:  Waiting for Christmas via Shutterstock

More by this author

Teresa Griffith

Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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