Whether you are sad or delighted depends on several things, such as what sort of relationship to and history you have with Christmas; this seems to relate mostly to what your childhood memories of it are like. Those people who had great childhood Christmases tend to carry this on into adulthood. The reverse is also true. This then gets passed down to their children etc, etc and so the cycle continues
At this juncture (after Christmas and around New Year) I typically find myself doing two things: reviewing how the Christmas just gone went, and looking forward into the new year and sketchily planning out a few things I want to achieve during the first few months of the year. So I look back and then look forward, at the same time. I am quite sure that I am not alone in doing this.
This Christmas just gone was the best one I have had in years. This, despite it being almost a year exactly that I have been living away from home in a nursing home. The prospect of Christmas was looming large and making me quite tearful and full of dread. I was gearing myself up for a disastrous first Christmas here. A travesty of the warm and homey Christmases I had now lost forever. I had constructed the complete, disastrous scenario that was to take place.
Then I thought no! Hang on a minute. This could, if I let it, be the best Christmas in ages because we are all free. Free of all the limitations of looking after a sick person that being here, in a nursing home, has taken away because it is someone else's responsibility. For the first time in ages we could concentrate on enjoying being together and having fun.
And guess what, we did. It really was the best Christmas we have had in a long time
But how was I able to achieve this quantum shift in perspective? The answer is very simple: through something called Mindfulness that I have been introduced to through the Centre.
What is Mindfulness then? It is a toolkit of techniques that you can learn, including daily meditation, which together train your brain into a new way of thinking that is far more positive. It is a technique that has been honed over many years into an eight week course and is delivered through a book and CD which are used in conjunction. The book explains the theory and the CD delivers the daily meditation practice which you are guided through. It really was as simple as that [for me] but as with all things it is the simplest things that are the hardest. And so yes, I found it very difficult at first. I found it hard to concentrate and that my mind kept wandering. Perseverance is necessary but improvement and therefore encouragement come quickly. It can also be very helpful at times like this to have someone else to be in touch with in order to compare notes and offer mutual support.
I see no point in going into great detail about the process. Firstly because this will be different for everyone so your experience may be quite different to mine, and secondly because this is done so much better by Mark Williams, the author of the book 'Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world'.
I initially took up Mindfulness as I felt I needed some support over Christmas in order to get me through a particularly difficult and emotionally draining time. To make matters worse a doctor had temporarily removed my antidepressants with disastrous results and at the very worst time of the year for me. I found myself ricocheting almost uncontrollably between states of red hot anger and sad weeping.
I had heard that meditation had the ability to raise the levels of serotonin in the brain, much as antidepressants do. So originally I was looking for a replacement for missing antidepressants to get me through Christmas. I didn't realise what a life-changing thing I had stumbled across. Mindfulness has already delivered this and much more besides and I am still only early on in the process (at week four of eight)
I have found that general benefits include: improved creativity and improved concentration and focus (less likely to be distracted), better time management and much better relationships. Oh and food tastes great! As if I never tasted it before
MS-related benefits include less fatigue and better fatigue management, improved memory and improved sitting posture.
I have learned a lot about myself; what a control freak I am and how difficult this can be for a wheelchair user with MS who cannot control her physical environment very easily and how this can lead to very negative frustration. I have found out what enormous benefit there is to be able to let go of control when I choose to. This is a crucial point about Mindfulness; it does not change your personality, merely allows you to be aware of the choices you are making and helps you to make better ones.
I definitely intend to continue with the Mindfulness course and want to take these learnings forward into the new year. If you are interested and decide to give it a go, then the good news is that you can join a class and learn in a Group at the centre which has the advantage of giving you the support of a group of people who are experiencing similar difficulties to you. Teacher/facilitator Sarah Jones will be running classes in the new year so keep an eye on Centre noticeboards or leave a message at Centre reception. If you have any questions Sarah would be delighted to talk to you she can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07973 156331. Sarah will also be running classes via Skype for those who find meetings problematic. There is no charge for members except the customary donation
Mindfulness has been proven to be of enormous benefit to people with long-term illnesses. You may not be able to cure the MS but you can certainly change your attitude to life and improve the quality of it. I would highly recommend giving Mindfulness a try. After all you have absolutely nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain.