Celebrate mindfully this holiday season

I wonder if Santa knows how many adults dread Christmas. Mrs. Claus certainly does — she manages the North Pole and their social calendar.

We are definitely stressed by the debt of spending, the busyness of doing everything that needs to be done, checking off every item on an endless list and obligatory social events.

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Unhealthy eating and excessive drinking stress the body. With others celebrating around them, those who are missing out, alone or hungry suffer even more.

Many families gather together, but without the harmony of a Bing Crosby Christmas special. Instead of singing favourite Christmas carols or playing out the Nativity scene, family members sing sad and angry songs of years gone by and take on the old family roles dating back to childhood.

But we don’t have to carry through the holiday season the same old ways. There is a way to enjoy this time of the year with less stress and more joy. At the heart of all tradition is intention. Let’s celebrate more mindfully.

At each year’s end, I review the family calendar and I am amazed at all that has happened in just 12 months. This past year, my daughter graduated from high school and my son from university. My wife returned to full time teaching, and my two sons were away all summer at work in Toronto.

As we act through our usual holiday traditions, we are reminded of holidays past and how our lives have changed, who is here and who is not, and how relationships evolve. We are reminded of our connections with one another in the past and present and in our exchanges of good will, our connectedness with all humanity.

When we are mindful, we appreciate that everything changes. Our lives are finite, relationships end, we grow and we grow older. All things good and bad will pass.

When I think of wish lists, I am reminded of all the things I wanted when I was younger, thinking that they would bring happiness, but craving for what we don’t have never brings lasting satisfaction. All things grow old. There is always something new or better.

There is a pervasive myth that we will be happy when we get what we want — the perfect gift or when everything is just right — the perfect life. In mindfulness, we learn to accept all things in this world just as they are. We don’t have to like everything, but we have to accept reality and what we can’t change. We can still work to improve our lives, our relationships and our world.

We can love ourselves and one another just as we are: imperfect and human.

You can forever pursue happiness by wanting what you don’t have or you can appreciate what you have and be happy today. What we take for granted today is what we will miss tomorrow.

This will be our 14th Christmas without my mom, but instead of feeling blue, I’ll remember how she celebrated the holidays better than anyone I’ve ever known. She infused an unmatched depth of love and thought into each card she wrote, present wrapped, meal prepared and hug given.

She inspired me to pass the same love forward in all that I do.

This year, have yourself a mindful holiday season. Be present for every moment for it will come and go too fast.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health: davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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