I’m a podcaster by profession. It’s my job to interview guests and to truly listen. But listening doesn’t come naturally to me, I must confess. I’ve always been a talker. (In elementary school, my report card consistently included the note “Talks too much.”) I’ve had to learn to listen. But listening isn’t just a matter of being quiet and letting the other person talk. The key to listening, and I mean really listening, is to be present and attentive. To do so, you have to eliminate distractions—whether they’re voices in your own head or some external visual competing for our attention. (Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with someone with the TV on in the background? It has a kind of magnetic pull on us, doesn’t it?)
The carol It Came Upon a Midnight Clear says, “The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing,” but how can we possibly listen to the angels’ song when the world seems so very loud at this time of year?
Say “no” to one holiday demand that you really don’t need to accommodate. I’ve been known to cart my family to several events in one day in an effort to please others at the expense of our own mental health. Practice exercising the “no” muscle and find some heavenly peace.
You knew this was coming, right? We need to move, but not just from the parking lot to the closest mall. Movement to music releases endorphins and brings some natural joy. Find a fitness class that takes you out of the “stress zone” for at least an hour or two a week. (Body & Soul classes fit the bill for me!)
THE best gift ever. Be intentional about moments with the Reason for the Season at the beginning of the day, if at all possible. Read an Advent devotional or download an advent app. It will help you set your internal antenna to receive positive heavenly signals all day!
Make people the priority, not things. To make sure this happens, set dates on the calendar ahead of time, to ensure that you don’t miss prioritizing those closest to you. Make a date night with your spouse; make individual dates with the kiddos. When the holidays have come and gone, you’ll have built into what matters most.
Consider giving a gift that doesn’t come in a box: One that will connect you w/ neighbors, children, friends in the months ahead. It doesn’t have to be pricey. Give babysitting coupons to your best friends, offer to make soup or shovel snow for the neighbor, plan an outing to a nearby museum with your nephews, etc.
This is last, but truly not least. Again, this will take some intentionality, but you need to listen to your body/mind, to find what you need most. Maybe you can cut out of a party early or hit the hay an hour or two early one evening (and have your spouse put the kids to bed for a change).
Note that none of the above include technology. At the top, I mentioned that in order to be present and attentive we must eliminate distractions. And the commercialization of Christmas attempts to persuade us that the season is about the “new,” the glitz, glitter, flash, and buzz. We know better. Unplug and eliminate yet one more distraction. And then, hear the angels sing.
Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition health coach and the author of “Podcasting Made Simple.” She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.