This week, I've felt compelled to do the same kind of review on Christmas. We rarely "do" Christmas here, since my husband is usually deployed this season. Having him home put an entirely different spin on things and has given me a lot to think about.
The science of positive psychology tells us that reflecting on good experiences is emotionally and physically healthy; it actually makes us stronger. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, taking note of the less-than-great experiences as well can go a long way towards helping us avoid them next year.
So this week, I'd like to encourage you to take a few minutes to sit down with a steaming mug of your favorite coffee (or coffee alternative), grab your laptop or a pen and think about the last couple weeks. (If you do, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear what you come up with.)
Here are a few things that popped up in my post-holiday assessment:
- Stock up on holiday goodies now. There's very little I'd like to be doing less than shopping right now, but there's no denying that this is the best time of year to get holiday themed stuff for dirt cheap. From wrapping paper and stocking stuffers to half-priced holiday scented candles, I can do myself a huge favor by heading out now and snagging all the things I know I'll need next year to stash in a closet so next November I can start ahead of the game.
- Update the gift idea list. Gifts are not one of my love languages, so I really struggle with giving them well. But seeing what people's best loved Christmas gifts were or getting an inside look at their favorite color schemes, coffee brands, candle scents, etc. during Christmas parties can be a great prompt for me in planning birthday, graduation or wedding gifts that I know I'll need to buy later in the year. Of course, the time to write down those prompts is NOW while it's all still fresh!
- Start crafting a strategy. While it's not good to dwell on what didn't go well, an honest assessment of rough patches and a little constructive planning can go a long way. What was your biggest challenge? Splitting time between families? A tight budget or too-packed calendar? Start thinking (and talking) to your friends/family now about ways to do things differently next year. [This is especially important if you want to introduce a significant change such as whose family you'll visit or stepping down from a social obligation you've traditionally filled like running the kids' holiday program at your church.]
- Follow up. In the back-to-regular-life rush of this week, it's important to me to make sure I don't forget to follow up. Email friends or relatives to ask for that great recipe they made for their holiday party (pesto and brie rounds - yum!), send a note telling an out of town friend how wonderful it was to see them, or send simple thank you notes to the people who poured their time and energy into making Christmas special.
- Steal good ideas. Every year I struggle to figure out what I'm supposed to bring to $5 gift swaps or as a hostess gift, and every year I see something brilliant that other people have thought of. This year I'm going to be the brilliant one and write them down! (Or, more accurately, start a board on Pinterest to reference next year.) Nerf guns, mini-marshmallow launchers, pocket size flashlights in fun colors and little travel scent packs (for cars or hotel rooms) - next year I won't have to wrack my brain to find the guaranteed popular items!
- Write a bucket list. Stick it in your planner. Whether you pick things you didn't find the time to do this year or focus on things you did this year and loved best, write yourself a list of must-do activities. (If you have a spouse or kids, be sure to include them in this part!) Then stick it in your planner or calender - early (think July or August). Life doesn't come with guarantees, but this is probably your best shot for making things happen. [If money tends to be the main reason for not doing something, consider stashing an envelope or jar somewhere with the total estimated cost of the activity written on the front and start tucking money away now. You won't miss a few dollars here and there all year, and the payoff at the end will be so worth it!]