FeelGooder Asks: What’s On for Your Christmas Weekend?

Not all of our readers celebrate Christmas, but this weekend is a public holiday in many Western countries, and is celebrated widely in many others. So, whether you’re planning celebrations or not, I’m interested to know:

What’s on for your Christmas weekend?

Family fun

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My family does celebrate Christmas. Although we don’t have a religion, we see it as a time to get together and have fun. This year, I’m going to the biggest Christmas lunch I’ve ever attended. Word has it that 26 people will be there, among them, my nearly-two-year-old nephew, my sister and her husband, and my mum.

The event’s part of my brother-in-law’s family celebrations. He’s got a very cheeky sense of humor, so I’m very much looking forward to meeting some of his extended family. The weather’s meant to be warm—30 degrees Celsius—which I’m also looking forward to.

That said, 26 people is a big party. I’m planning to spend the following day enjoying some solo recuperation time!

What about you? Will your weekend plans involve Santa and snow, family fun, or something else entirely? Share them with us in the comments. And if you celebrate it, happy Christmas!

FeelGooder Asks: What Are You Finishing?

The news today that the US has declared an end to the war in Iraq is undoubtedly a relief for millions around the world. It’s quite the festive gift.

Regardless of your position on this war, or war in general, this news raises questions about endings. Sometimes endings are sad, and sometimes they’re not. So I’m curious:

What are you finishing?

Have you noticed how people rush to finish things by the end of the year? I’ll bet you have plenty you’re finishing up at work, or school, or even in social or interest groups. How does that feel?

This year I’ve finished a major chapter in my life by changing the nature of some important relationships with people I love. This has been a great challenge, and a long one, and has required some significant changes.

The one thing it’s really brought home to me, though, is that the saying “when one door closes, another opens” is true. I really hate that saying, because I’m not great at letting go of things that matter to me. But this year I learned that to open new doors, you don’t necessarily need to let things go: you can transform them (not always easy, I know) and in so doing create an opportunity for a new door to open.

So I’m finishing a chapter of confusion and frustration. I’m already getting the impression that the door that’s opening involves more warmth, sponteneity, and fun. Is this a good ending? Why yes, yes it is.

What are you finishing? Let me know in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: What’s Your Secret for Surviving the Silly Season?

The festive shopping-and-socialising silly season usually hits its stride at this point in the month. How are you holding up? It’s usually somewhere around now that I start to feel like I need to escape the whirl of conspicuous over-consumption and take time out to recharge.

So I thought I’d ask you:

What’s your secret to surviving the silly season?

My secret generally involves carving out some “me time” from the pre-Christmas rush and panic. There are a few tricks that I use to do this.

Garden

The garden is a good escape from silly season stress

The first is to spend some time doing something that’s not commercial or related to the festive season in any way. I might go for a bush walk, for example, spend the afternoon in the garden, or head to the bath or the hammock with a good book.

For those few hours, I can ignore the fact that it’s the festive season, avoid the expectation that I should be frantically baking or shopping or gift-wrapping or carol-singing, and just chill out.

Another good antidote is to say “no” to something—a party invitation, a free sample offered by a well-meaning shop assistant, a demand for answers about the gift list or my schedule.

It might sound odd, but I find the festive season is usually crammed with obligations. They’re fun, sure—but they’re still obligations. Saying “no” to something is a good way to claw back some sense of choice and control, even on a small level. It can also give me more time to relax!

They’re my secrets to surviving the silly season. What are yours? Share them with us in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: What Do You Feel Good About this Festive Season?

It’s officially that time of year! While the festive season can get stressful, bring up issues, and undermine our savings plans, it still gives most of us more than a few things to feel good about.

What do you feel good about this festive season?

Festive fun

Image copyright Konstantin Sutyagin - Fotolia.com

I feel good about being with my family for Christmas. In the last year, a few bygones have been allowed to be bygones, and a few hatchets have been buried, so I’m looking forward to a less awkward Christmas, and one that’s more open and fun.

I also feel good about having time off. I don’t know about you, but this year’s been a bit hectic for me. There’s been a lot on, and a lot to tackle, so having free time will be something of a blessing.

Finally, I’m having a party at my house over Christmas time, and I’m really looking forward to that. I live a long way from most of my friends, so it will be great to have some of them come out and stay with me for a night of country fun!

What about you? What are you feeling good about this festive season? Share your excitement with us in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: What Were You Mindful of This Week?

While mindfulness has become something of the flavor of the month in self-help circles, for many, having a conscious awareness of what we’re doing does help us feel more focused and alive.

In fact, it can seem astonishing that something so simple can make us feel so good. So I wonder:

What were you mindful of this week?

This week, as in most weeks, I was mindful of the weather.

A beautiful sky makes me feel good

By this, I don’t mean that I just grumbled about changeable conditions, checked the forecast, or tried to “wash” my car by leaving it in the rain (although I did all these things).

Being mindful of environmental conditions this week brought me some really enjoyable moments.

There was the feeling of sun on the back of my neck as I ground the morning coffee. There was the moment when, while I was running, a sunshower hit the west side of the forested hill in front of me. And there were the spectres of mist that appeared like faint devils in my headlights late one night while I was driving along a country backroad.

I find the physical environment is like a doorway to mindfulness that’s always open. It’s an instant way to feel good, wherever you may be.

But what about you? What were you mindful of, and how did it make you feel? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: What’s Been Your Latest Adventure?

Life is one big adventure, don’t you think? While change can be challenging, things would be pretty boring if we didn’t look around every so often and wonder how in heck we got to wherever we’re at!

What’s been your latest adventure?

My latest adventure is NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.

writing desk

When things get writerly...

A friend mentioned on Twitter that he was keen to participate, so I thought I’d push him over the edge by saying I’d do it with him.

As usually happens when we make commitments like this in life, I was also overloaded with work for the month, so I’ve spent every day writing, and then every night writing. In the downtime? Why, I’ve been reading, in the hopes that it’ll be good for my writing!

It feels a bit intensive—something like Lisa’s hiking retreat, only for writers. It’s quite the adventure.

By writing all the time, I’m more easily recognizing tedious habits and naturally working out ways to break them. I’m also getting faster, stronger, better—or at least, my “creative muscle” is. And I’m enjoying it. Okay, maybe it’s a little focused—a little obsessive—but sometimes the only way to get better is to concentrate and build quickly.

The adventure’s also fun because I know it’s not forever. NaNoWriMo ends with November, and then things will be back to normal … if I want them to be!

What about you? What’s been your latest adventure? Share it with us in the comments!

FeelGooder Asks: What Have You Overcome?

Why is it that surmounting challenges—even those we don’t realize are challenges when we first meet them—is so difficult? The advantage is that sense of accomplishment when we’re done. No matter what the outcome, at least we gave it a shot.

Sometimes, though, we find we’ve mysteriously overcome a challenge that we’d given up ever solving…

What have you overcome recently?

For me, the answer to this question is: family misunderstanding. I’m not talking about one big misunderstanding, but the general feeling of bewilderment that many of us have about at least some family members. You know what I’m talking about: that sense that Aunty Beryl must actually have come from another planet, or that your brother is operating on a completely different level from you.

I think this sense of otherness can be particularly strong within families, precisely because, with a shared history, we feel that these people, at least, should be comprehensible to us—and vice versa. Perhaps it’s for that very reason that their behavior often seems so inexplicable.

Recently I’ve started to overcome that feeling within some elements of my own family. I think this has had to do with that family growing. The new child has given us a new perspective and added to the family as a whole in some subtle (as well as the not-so-subtle!) ways. Suddenly, other family members’ behavior has become more explicable. And perhaps mine has too.

This was a “problem” I had long since given up “solving.” It’s funny how sometimes life will solve something for us, without our even trying, don’t you think?

What about you? What have you overcome recently? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: Which Site Makes You Feel Good?

I think we all agree that the media can get us down, what with its panic-mongering and crisis-conjuring.

But the reverse is also true: we have the media to thank for much of our entertainment—much of what makes us feel good. Often, we look to the media—particularly TV and the web—for antidotes to the bad news pedalled by the very same source. So today I thought I’d ask:

Which site makes you feel good?

That's funny

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For me, there are a few, but these are the tried-and-true standouts—the reliable day-savers!

The Onion has been on my radar for as long as I’ve been online. It always manages to say what everyone’s secretly thinking in a way that somehow manages to make things seem okay. How do they do it?

Colbert Nation is another laugh a minute for me. I can forget any cares at Colbert Nation: Steven’s always pointing out something (usually horrifying) that I had no awareness of, and making light of it at the same time. This is a news show I can get behind. Crushingly, the videos are no longer available to view down here in Australia. On the upside, there’s usually enough other super-witty content on the site to keep me going.

The Oatmeal’s comics are a surefire way to get a smile going even on the gloomiest days. Hammer Pants vs. Hipsters is by far the most amusing infographic I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Eerily accurate, too…

What about you? Spill the beans on the sites that make you feel good. We’ll thank you for ‘em!

FeelGooder Asks: What Did You Give This Week?

Giving makes us feel good. While altruism is largely regarded as being at odds with the basic theory of evolution, anyone who’s ever given help knows that it feels good.

What did you give this week?

I gave help to a man stranded in his car on a country road with two young sons.

Where I live, if you see someone standing beside their car, you stop and ask what’s up. This guy was at the crossroads of a major road, but no one seemed to have stopped.

Out here, no one can hear you run out of fuel.

So I wound down my window and asked what was wrong. He was out of petrol. My car was on diesel. Did he have a phone to call someone? No.

I pulled over and we talked. He had a long way to drive, and it was already mid-afternoon. I tried calling my friend to see if he had a jerry can of fuel, but to no avail. In the end, the driver borrowed my phone to call the national motorist-assist service. I told them where he was—though he was only about 50km from home, he didn’t know the roads—and they said they’d be about an hour.

I was so sorry I couldn’t have helped him with fuel—an hour’s wait is a long time—but he waved my apology away.

“Out of 30 or 40 cars that have passed,” he said, “you’re the only one who stopped.”

This was no big deal: it took about five minutes out of a sunny Sunday afternoon. Though I couldn’t help him more, I was glad I’d stopped. I didn’t exactly see it as optional—I saw it as natural. Who, I thought, wouldn’t stop for a stranded driver? I was also glad I’d met him. Being able to help someone—whether it’s someone you know, or someone you don’t—is extremely fulfilling.

That’s what I gave this week: five minutes of my time and a phone call. But it left me feeling pretty good about the world. What about you? Tell us what you’ve given in the comments.

FeelGooder Asks: What’s Your Good News?

Look in the papers—or at the online news—right now and you’d be forgiven for feeling a little deflated. In fact, that’s probably the best-case scenario! Between shaky local and global economies, political bickering, environmental disasters, and humanitarian crises, things are grim.

…but not entirely.

What’s your good news?

Climate change?

Snow: an increasingly uncommon sight where I live.

I know you have some good news. Perhaps it’s something that’s happened in your personal life, or to a friend. Or maybe it’s something you read online. In any case, share your good news with us in the comments—with a link if you can—so that we can all add a bright, FeelGooder moment to our days.

My good news? The government here in Australia has passed carbon tax laws. This is one debate that’s raged white-hot for some time in Australia.

Regardless of the politics, whose side you’re on, or what you believe the merits of a tax are or are not over other tools that could be used to curb carbon emissions, this seems to me to be a large philosophical step forward for Australia. And that’s good news.

My country remains one of the highest emitters of carbon per capita in the world. Given the changing climate here—and with our Pacific Island neighbors—I’m very glad that we seem to finally be tackling the difficult question of what we can, and are willing, to do to act. To me, this mind shift is very good news.

What’s your good news this week? Please share it with us in the comments.