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Health Matters: Here Comes the Christmas Season ready or not

I think there is a hidden secret that most of us know and sadly that secret is that Christmas is not a joyful time for everyone. This year, like every other year, I have many patients, young and old alike, who do not look forward to Christmas.  Some patients visit the ghosts of “Christmas past” which still haunt them presently.  Others find that “Christmas present” is really not a gift at all for them. And some dread that their “Christmas future” will be a time of ongoing loneliness.

Christmas can be a fun time and joyous time, but that joy can only be experienced if others are present in your life; after all it is a time for sharing. What I’m referring to in particular is that I have some patients who have lost a loved one and feel alone. Now some may not be alone, but they still feel “it” and the reality is, if you still feel “it” then the feeling of loneliness will definitely come. So instead of throwing some vinegar into eggnog, let’s talk about how we can spice up the eggnog for yourself and everyone else around you, but first let’s talk about why many people like or love Christmas time.

Top 10 Reasons why people Love Christmas

  1. People appear happier and friendly and say “hello” more often
  2. There is lots of great food around
  3. Presents are received
  4. It’s a time of giving presents
  5. Usually it means time off from work and some time
    to rest
  6. Spending  time with family and friends
  7. Spending time to relax and doing fun stuff for yourself  and others
  8. Nice, pretty decorations all around
  9. Going to parties
  10. Remembering the true  spirit and reason for Christmas

Now, as I’ve written these top 10 reasons it strikes me that these can also be the same reasons why people don’t like Christmas. They don’t get gifts, they aren’t invited to parties and people are happier which makes them feel sad because they want that feeling of happiness.   They may have only a few friends or their friends or loved one may have died and they can’t get that love and connection with them anymore. They feel alone.

As well, they may not be able to afford to give gifts that they want to give and many don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful foods of the season.  I know several of my patients have nowhere to go for a turkey dinner (my personal favorite meal of the year… my daughter jokingly says, “Well you are what you eat Dad…” I think you get the idea…).

So how can we help others get through and enjoy the Christmas season?  Here are some suggestions of things we can say or do, but certainly not a complete list by any means.

Smile, and say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to everyone, even if you don’t know them. I’ve never had anyone get upset because I said that and, in reality, if a person does get upset, maybe they need that cheerful greeting the most.  A smile goes a long way.

If you are alone, walk in the mall and be around other people. Try to soak in the happiness, because happiness can be contagious, just like sadness can be. I personally enjoy the hustle and bustle at the shopping centres during the holiday season; you can truly absorb the holiday atmosphere around you just by putting yourself into it.

Send small tokens of appreciation to the people in your life.  The best gifts I’ve ever received are the Christmas cards or handmade things I’ve received from grateful patients.  Believe me, people like surprises but they love the feeling that someone truly cared enough to go out of their way to make something that money can’t buy. (I still believe it’s the thought that counts.)

Volunteer and help others who need help. (My experience is that giving of yourself is the only thing that comes back greater than the amount you have spent. Ironically it is the one thing you get more of, the more you give away.)

Help decorate and make something beautiful and pretty. Even if it is for your self. My wife always teases me that I like having the Christmas tree well into January; I just like the sparkling lights and the new look it adds to the family room.  Changing your environment even if it is a small change makes a person feel better. People like a little bit of change in their life, people need new stimulus, and it’s a way to see growth and positive change within their environment.

Attend a church service and get acquainted or reacquainted with the higher purpose and the true meaning of Christmas.  It can be wonderful place to absorb holiday meaning during the Christmas season.

Remember old friends and companions who have come and gone. A patient of mine who hated Christmas said his attitude changed when someone told him, “Don’t you think your wife would have wanted you to be happy and celebrate this time of year and honour her by making new memories?” I think that’s a wise statement, and better than any prescription I could offer him.  After all, Christmas is the time of rebirth and also a wonderful time of year to look back on past Christmas memories. 

Get out and get active, move your body and try a new activity. Except snow shoveling, as it causes way too many heart attacks. It’s never too late to learn a new trick, unless of course it’s snowboarding.

Throw a party of your own. There are many others who would love to attend.  Don’t worry about the size of the party, because size doesn’t matter, it’s the fact you are still able to party and to host one that counts.  So ask a few friends over for eggnog and shortbread cookies and talk about some of your Christmas memories and about the plans you may have for this Christmas.

This last one is up to you…… try to think about how you can make each day one percent brighter and start off early in November. If you only to make your day 1% brighter how much brighter would it be in 30 days?  Who knows, by December 1st your season may be  so bright that you need to wear shades.

Why did I write this article? Well, the post-Christmas blues can have a lingering effect and can make the winter months seem longer. As much as positive feelings can occur before Christmas, the after effects of Christmas can sometimes be a let down.  So the pre-Christmas blues and the post-Christmas blues can sometimes go hand in hand.   So why don’t we carry the positive spirit of Christmas onward and well into the New Year and beyond?  Maybe everyday should feel like the happy days of Christmas?  Because your health matters, and your good health starts with what you can do for yourself.

Let’s talk again soon,

Dr. Lalit Chawla MD,CCFP,FCFP

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