The month of December has a tendency to pass in a flurry, the main focus concentrated on Christmas Day. The other days pass in anticipation, and often, a stress-inducing countdown. December has become an extension of our overbooked, overplanned, overdigitized lives; a month where chaos and stress levels collide.
It’s cliché to say that we’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, that today, Christmas is an overcommercialized affair that’s about the procurement of things rather than generosity, caring and celebrating.
I’m the first one to agree, but I would also counter that in addition, we have forgotten the winter way of being. We have forgotten how to slow down, how to hibernate.
Our bodies and minds crave exactly that: seasonal adaptation. Summer is active, full of energy; in autumn, we begin to slow down, preparing for darker months. Winter rolls around and we embrace the darkness, things start to feel like they slow to a halt, and then spring returns, with the promise of rebirth and a new beginning.
Modern-day living doesn’t always easily fall into this cycle. There are to-do lists and appointments no matter what time of year. And yet our internal clock is screaming for a little balance. It’s impossible to live at full throttle all 12 months of the year.
But when the year starts to wind down, we often take a deep breath to get us through the holidays, and look to the new year for the blank slate that will allow us to hit the rest button.
Given this frenzy, it’s no surprise that Christmas advertising and marketing works; it sells a cozy, slow image after all. Families in pajama sets sitting by the fire smiling at each other (if only you invested in those pajamas, your family would be happy too). A cup of tea on the windowsill overlooking a snowy morning (make sure to buy this particular brand of tea, or your mornings won’t look like this). A couple on a winter walk through the woods (trust us, you can’t go on one of these walks without buying these boots).
Here’s the secret to that kind of living: You can’t buy your way to that feeling; you have to create it yourself.
There are 31 days in December, and that means 31 days full of opportunity for enjoyment and rejuvenation. December is a wonderful time for food and friends, celebration and gathering. It’s a month for hunkering down, embracing the darkness instead of succumbing to it, a month to slow down to the seasonal pace.
Light a candle. Make a new recipe. Invite a friend over for coffee. Make a gift instead of buying one, or support a local artist who makes something beautiful. Take a walk. Take a few hours to read a book. Turn the cellphone off. Put an auto-responder on your email. Don’t post that photo to social media. Be in the moment.
December can often get deemed a “busy” month, but take the time to ask yourself, “What am I busy with?” Some obligations and deadlines are entirely self-imposed; only we have the power to change that.
This December, take time to slow down.
Anna Brones is a writer, artist, and producer. Her latest book “Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way” is out from Ten Speed Press on December 26, 2017.