The Hero of the Holidays: 4 Ways to Bring Family Together By Margery Leveen Sher, author of The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing: Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine
Ah, the holidays are upon us. What does it bring to your mind?
Catching up with relatives you haven’t seen for a while? Gorging on turkey and treasured, old family recipes? Enjoying the little children who have been born to cousins in the past few years? Talking with the grandparents?
Or maybe your holiday isn’t always quite so idyllic.
Are you cringing at the thought of several hours with grouchy Uncle Bob? Are you hoping the kids running wild don’t grab you with sticky, dessert-covered hands? Are you preparing to pop an Advil for the noise and to grab a large glass of wine as Gramps tells you the same World War II stories again?
Whichever your mindset and past experience is, there are new ways for you to truly enjoy yourself all while being… the Hero of the Holidays!
The key to turning the holiday get-togethers around, or to enhancing the positives even more, is to Notice. Noticing is best defined as “mindfulness with a smile.” To be mindful means to be in the moment, and to use your senses to Notice what is all around you. Can’t we all use a bit more mindfulness during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Below are some simple steps to making this year’s holiday events happy, fun, and memorable!
1. Use Your Five Senses to Notice and to Help Others Notice, Too! To be a first-class Noticer, you must learn to use your senses and Notice. Here are some ideas:
• Savor the smells of the holidays. Not just the food, although that is often what get-togethers revolve around, but also the smell of the air outside – can you smell the crispness of winter? Why not ask family members what the smells evoke in their minds?
• Focus on all that you can see. What family resemblances can you see in the faces around the room? Are there family photos displayed, and how have people changed throughout the years? What memories have been made on the furniture that has been around for as long as you can remember?
• Keep your ears open for the sounds of the holidays. What do you hear? Certainly the sounds of talking and hopefully laughing, but what else? The TV? The sounds of the kitchen – ovens opening and closing? The refrigerator? Pots being washed? Cabinet doors clopping? Is there a rhythm you can Notice?
• Be aware of the often-overlooked sense of touch. When you hug family members, what does it feel like? Is someone frail? Who gives a good squeeze? What does the furniture feel like that you’re lounging on?
• And finally, taste. How does each part of the meal taste? Can you decipher the seasoning in different dishes? You may be surprised how you haven’t really tasted these foods over the years; you have eaten them while talking, but have not taken the time to really taste and savor.
2. Notice the Zippers: What Can You Do to Help the Event Go Smoothly? The Zipper is the best invention of all time! It is simple and it works: Zip. Zip. Zip. Done! What else is simple and works? Identify the Zippers in your family get-together. Here’s how:
• Can you think of something simple that will keep the food line moving quickly? Perhaps you can help the most elderly family members and the children serve themselves efficiently, so everyone is happy!
• Can you be the hero who gathers the little kids and stops them from running wild by getting them to play holiday games or sing carols?
• Can you be the person who gets the older kids or teens together for a conversation about the small things they are grateful for?
• Can you be the family member who engages the older folks to tell stories about the holidays of their youth?
3. Notice the Broccoli: Replicate Good Patterns and Disrupt the Bad Sure, it’s a tasty vegetable, but Broccoli is also a repeating pattern! It’s made up of smaller broccolis that are each made up of even smaller broccolis. Therefore, think of a “Broccoli” in the family as a pattern. If the Broccoli is good, try to find ways to replicate it. If the Broccoli is not good, perhaps you can disrupt it.
• What Broccoli can you Notice during holiday events? Do people always sit in the same place or with the same group of relatives or friends? Who always carves the turkey?
• The holidays hold lots of Broccoli. Notice them! Start a conversation about the holiday patterns other people Notice. Do they make the person feel warm and secure, or do they make the person cringe?
• Above all, it’s important to laugh with your relatives and friends as much as possible. Notice the Broccoli – the patterns that are unique to your family – and laugh!
4. Notice the Human Idosyn-Crazies What are Human Idiosyn-Crazies? They are the endearingly dumb things we all do. For example, some people are early people and some are always late. These are Human Idiosyn-Crazies. You know who will arrive while you are still getting ready and who will arrive when plates are being cleared, and so on.
This holiday, we need to Notice our own Human Idiosyn-Crazies first, before we Notice them in others. It’s important to be kind and ready with a smile, a chuckle, or a hearty belly laugh. We all have our Human idioysn-Crazies and laughing at our own builds up the fuel to be kinder to other people. So explain what Human Idiosyn-Crazies are to your family around the dinner table and share some of your own. Laugh together, and enjoy being the Hero of the Holidays!
Margery Leveen Sher is the Founder and Chief Noticing Officer of The Did Ya Notice? Project. Sher is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, and executive who has had a long consulting career working with corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and foundations.