By Sanah Thakur
It’s that time of the year again, when the neurochemistry of your brain is aligning itself to spark the holiday spirit. Your work colleagues are transitioning into pleasant beings, much like the weather outdoors. You giddily skip through holiday offers and retail traps, excusing your disruptive shopping behaviour with seasonal ignorance. Your morning coffee becomes warmer and hot chocolate; affordable. You find yourself looking forward to prolonged periods of interaction with your family, sponsored by the generosity of your wallet. While your neurons seem to be doing an excellent job at luring you into the black hole of positive feelings, the realities of past holiday experiences stand strong with conviction. There’s evidence from your own life, that a number of instances instigated fake smiles and forced feelings. And while they might seem as normal as tradition, you’re better off feeling more genuine in your experience of this holiday season. If the unwrapping must begin, let it start with the layers of lies you don’t need to be telling yourself.
You’re not lonely if you just want to be alone: It’s become an unspoken norm that festive occasions need to be shared. The classic combo of snowy movies and magical songs are there to remind you that singular activities are lonely. However, the confusion of enjoying an activity you don’t want to be a part of, can remind you why it’s okay to want to be alone. After multiple failures at executing a ‘no’ to the face cringing songs, dinners and holiday plans, it’s time to sign a peace treaty with yourself. Choose a minimum of two things you enjoy that don’t require the pre-requisite of company and do at least one. People around you might feel uncomfortable at the constant reminder of their unsigned peace treaties, but don’t let it phase you.
Appreciating gifts you have confused appreciation for: One of my favourite past times of the season is witnessing the excruciating pain of what I like to refer to as ‘rapid expression rollercoasters’. Receiving strange gifts can be hard. But simultaneously conjuring an appropriate reaction to hide that shocked expression is much more difficult. An easy trick is practising your expressions in advance and expecting every gift to be strange. This way, when you actually receive an appropriate gift, you’ll be genuinely surprised. Expressing your gratitude at the thought of the gift is also an ideal solution, especially when you’ve limited your imagination with the use of the item. Joint pain relievers are actually pretty good bed warmers!
Small Talk with Related Strangers: After encountering this situation consistently, I realised I wasn’t alone in sharing this experience. An unresolved mystery of Christmas will always be the case of the related stranger who is strategically placed beside you for an exclusive version of holiday small talk. Now an advanced practitioner, my advice is simple. Remind yourself that the likelihood of the related stranger meeting you again is small. Engage in conversation as entertainment as opposed to duty. Daring to ask questions that you find interesting might reveal sides to the stranger that convince you of the familial link.
Being Privately Real About Your Public Self: Lastly and most importantly, being honest with yourself about your intentions this holiday season will calm the storm of pretense in your mind. It’s okay to admit that the holidays are an escape, that you’re broke this year, that you’d rather be alone, that you need a Christmas fling, that you want to eat extra and you’re not ready for the next year. The more real you are about why you’re celebrating, the happier your public self will be.
Instead of spending time syncing smiles with people who refuse to believe Santa isn’t the only thing fake about Christmas, spend time with those who let you ‘fake it’ less this holiday season.
*The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
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