When I was eight years old, my aunt and uncle invited our family to their house to watch “The Wizard of Oz.” They had a color TV, and we didn’t. I still remember how excited I was on the evening that we went to their home. My aunt cooked a wonderful dinner and then we all crowded around their television to watch the show. When Dorothy landed in Oz, and the film changed from black and white to color, I was beside myself. It was so beautiful. Glinda, the good witch, wore the loveliest dress I had ever seen in my life and it even sparkled! And while the Wicked Witch of the West scared me nearly to death, I thought her green face was pretty cool. The whole experience of seeing that movie at their house that evening was one I have never forgotten.
I often think about how great it would be to continue to experience life with that kind of wonder and enthusiasm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live every moment in color, instead of black and white?
I suppose I’m pondering this because we are approaching the holiday season and for the last several years, that kind of true joy, that deep-down, authentic, “touches you at the gut level” joy, has been missing from my holiday celebrations. In part, it is because grown-up obligations have supplanted the carefree life of youth, but I think it also has to do with a tendency to view life through gray-colored glasses.
So, here are some ideas for bringing joy back into your life during the holiday season.
Give a gift to yourself: What is it that you need most? Time? A break? A party? Make a commitment to do something nice for you and you alone. If this is hard for you, pretend you are doing it for someone else. Even if it just means being your own best friend and accepting yourself with less criticism and fewer unrealistic expectations. If you can bring tidings of comfort and joy to yourself, then you are well on your way to spreading joy to others.
Give a gift from the heart, not the wallet: You don’t have to purchase a gift for everyone — you can make something, or give of your time. Put together a packet of favorite family recipes, or give a homemade gift certificate for an invitation to your home to watch the big game, complete with snacks, dinner, beer, whatever. Most people appreciate a gift of spending time, rather than money. When you give away something of yourself, the space that is left will be filled with joy.
Allow yourself to feel joyful: Here’s a wild concept — give yourself permission to feel joy — to act like a kid — to try seeing the world with new eyes. The first step toward bringing joy into your life is actively hoping that you will feel it. Spend some time imagining what joy would feel like. Open yourself up to the idea of being happy. Start telling your brain about joy and it will begin to recognize it. Give yourself permission to stop thinking about your work and your obligations long enough to identify joy.
Nurture your creativity: When I was little, every Thanksgiving, Mom would find some kind of creative project for us to do. One year we made turkeys out of old Reader’s Digest magazines. We folded the pages, spray painted them brown, added a head, some feet and a few feathers – it was great. I was really proud of my turkey. While you may not feel inclined to do that, there are other creative outlets that you could pursue. Have you ever gone to Wine & Canvas, or a similar place where you can paint a picture in three hours flat? No talent required. They walk you through it, step by step. It is truly gratifying to see the finished product. Give yourself three hours of creativity this holiday season. Better yet, share the experience with a friend or family member.
Pay attention: Notice the colors of the flowers, the sky and the trees. Listen to the sounds of traffic, holiday songs, children playing, people laughing – think Silver Bells. Focus on what is around you with a view toward finding the beauty in it.
If you try some of these activities, not only will it brighten the lives of others, it will brighten yours as well.•
Jonna Kane MacDougall, an Indianapolis attorney, is assistant dean for external affairs and alumni relations at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and a former law school career services director. A professional career/life coach, MacDougall can be contacted at 317-775-1804 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.