Sunday, December 1, 2013

Changing the Channel on Your Thoughts This Holiday Season

December 1st marks the official beginning of the countdown to one of the most spectacular and joyous holidays of the year. No need to repeat the old rhetoric (which, just happens to be true). We all know what the season is supposed to be about: the uplifting of faith, love, and charity be it through the celebration of Christ's birth, commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple through Hanukkah, or even honoring our culture with Kwanzaa. It's a time when giving should outweigh receiving; when selfishness is replaced with selflessness; and when peace and good cheer should reign supreme. But for many, the (often outlandish) expectations of the holidays can create an emotional load heavier than shopping bags on Black Friday. Finding the perfect gift; hoping to receive the perfect gift; wishing for the perfect setting; planning for the perfect family gathering and, worst, measuring what quantifies as "perfect" against what and who you see is sure to set anyone up for a major let down. And so the lamenting begins before the first shiny, glass bulb is even hung on the Christmas tree. The solution to all of that? Simply change your thoughts!

Joel Osteen, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas is known for offering great practical living advice cradled in Biblical principles. Of his many messages I often enjoy, there was one that profoundly resonated with me, hence the title of this blog. Having lost his father some years back, he spoke of how easy it is at times for him to sit and wallow in that lost. How in everything, he could find some sadness to snuggle up to if he wanted. Looking through old pictures. Listening to certain songs. Even cradling his dad's mementos. Until it hit him that as easily as he could turn the channel on his television away from something that was not appealing to him, he could "change the channel" on his thoughts in an instant as well. 

In other words, when you feel the sad memory creeping in, choose to replace it with a happy one immediately. Remembering the final days of a loved one who passed? Replace it with all of the happy moments you were blessed to share with them instead. Mourning the loss of a relationship? Shift to thoughts of the happy times you did share with faith that you will create even better memories in the future with new lessons and perspectives to guide you. In a financial bind and tempted to wallow over what you can't give? Shift to counting the blessings of what you've been blessed to receive and then give of your time instead to those in need. Whether a glass is half full or half empty truly comes down to how you choose to see it. As Pastor Robert H. Schuller once said, "It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts." So, what "army of thoughts" are you allowing to control you? 

The holidays are truly what we make them to be, whether we see them as a time of joy, a time of frustration, or a time of sorrow. It can be a time for counting our blessings or focusing on our losses. An opportunity to celebrate what we have or sulk over what we don't. And it can even be a time of bemoaning our "dysfunctional" families or celebrating the diversity under our roofs (wink). Like the assorted packages under a Christmas tree, when given the chance, we tend to choose the one that's the brightest, biggest, and looks most promising. Well, we have the power to do the same with our thoughts this season. Don't reach for that negative thought when the option of choosing a positive one awaits you instead. Slide the bow off of that bliss; tear the paper off of that joy; and unwrap the gift of true peace that awaits you. The choice is always yours to make. 

Happy Holidays!