The most wonderful time of the year?

Sorry to lead with something quite sad and disturbing today, but I was in Amsterdam this week and on the train from the Airport to the city someone commit suicide by jumping in front of the train.  We were all stuck on the train for 90 minutes and so I spoke to one of the other passengers who mentioned that this happens almost daily in Amsterdam. But this problem is not unique to the Netherlands. Suicide is on the rise in many countries and this time of year is especially difficult for many people.

Experts are unclear on the exact causes of this suicide trend so I won’t even speculate because these kinds of social issues are systemic and thus have many factors to consider. This time of year is especially difficult for several reasons.  It is a festive time of year when society tells us we are supposed to feel joy and love for our fellow humans. There is pressure to find the right gifts that make friends and families eyes light up with pleasure and gratitude. We force ourselves to spend time with people at dinners and Christmas parties which may be done out of obligation rather than a desire to be together.  Domestic disputes rise sharply over the Christmas period. We also put ourselves under so much pressure to be happy and if we don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with it may magnify our loneliness. We are also closing in on the end of another calendar year which causes people to reflect and this can magnify the disappointments that some people are feeling with their lives.

It certainly is a time of year where family traditions and local customs dictate what we should do and how we should feel.  Maybe it is time to reconsider what really makes us happy. Is it really shopping and the giving and receiving of gifts? Is it really spending time with people we don’t talk to the rest of the year? Maybe it is time to rethink what makes you happy. There are alternatives during the festive season.  Spend time with people you really feel a connection to or at least people you don’t have emotional baggage with. Give to people who need your help or who you really appreciate rather than those you feel you „should“ give a gift to. Remember the gift of time is one of the most precious things you can give.

Finally, if this time of year makes you reflect on your problems or what is missing in your life, remember a couple of things.  I like how Eckhart Tolle points out that in this moment there are no problems.  Problems are most often just thoughts about the future that we label as such. Keep that in mind when you feel like you are being crushed by the weight of your problems. Right now as you are sitting reading this you do not have a problem. Also, if a  jewish man named Victor Frankl can find joy and things to be grateful for in a Nazi concentration camp, then you too can certainly find some cause for gratitude in your life. These two things alone, recognising there are no problems in the moment and feeling gratitude, can change your state tremendously. So let go of the obligations and expectations that are frustrating or disappointing you. Finding your own way to be happy can be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and to those around you.  Remember, filling your heart with love, joy and happiness is something you can aspire to every day of the year so don’t put so much pressure on yourself that these three positive emotions need to reach their peak during a few days in December.