Holidays are supposed to be a festive time of year, but with all the political divisiveness, natural disasters and even terrorism in downtown Manhattan yet again, it has become difficult to maintain a sense of calm or contentment. The endless news cycles and social media frenzies have us outraged, but at the same time, desensitized us to the horrors that occur in the world. How do we set aside the screens, and engage in productive and constructive conversations with our family and friends when we are so divided? And, how can we find peace and happiness in such stressful times?
Find Common Ground
Focusing on things we can agree on, make it easier to come to an understanding on the issues in which we don’t see eye to eye. Everything is not black and white; there are plenty of grey areas. The idea is to find those areas where you may overlap. If you ask good questions, you will discover common values. Don’t approach the dialogue as being all or nothing; you don’t have to be “with someone” or “against them.” Don’t think us versus them. Have an open mind.
Be Curious, Pause and Observe
Mindfulness can help by increasing our awareness of how stress affects us. When we are stressed, we become reactive and quick to respond, especially with our families. Take time to pause when you are triggered by something or someone; then focus on the thoughts that accompany those feelings. Ask yourself: am I putting my own judgments on top of this experience? Am I making assumptions or jumping to conclusions? Drop into your body and notice where you are feeling the stress, anxiety or anger. Is it in your chest, throat, or belly? If you get out of your head and into your body, the feeling will shift. Pause before you respond. Give yourself some space.
My famous line is that we are all doing the best we can. Some friends give me a lot of grief for that line, but I truly believe we are doing our best with the information and experience we have. When others act out with anger and hurtful behavior, it usually comes from a place of pain. What did that person experience to make them act a certain way? Rarely is it personal. You don’t need to condone the hurtful behavior, but at least try and understand from where it is coming. When our anger turns to compassion and understanding, we become more peaceful. We actually can empathize with their pain, and realize it’s not about us.
Another way to build your empathy muscle is to try and send positive thoughts to those you don’t particularly care for, or with whom you are angry. This is not an easy task, but will also cultivate compassionate and allow you to become a more peaceful person. After all, if they suffer less, so will you. This does not mean we don’t fight for what we believe, and allow others to walk all over us, we are just in a better place to be able to respond appropriately.
See the Good
The holiday season can be busy and stressful, but take time to find the joy. See the good in people. We are all inextricably connected, and have moments of shared joy and shared pain, which unite us. Many of us felt the collective pain after Hillary lost the election, but also participated in the shared, fun experiences at the various community events in town. The way people helped each other around the country after the hurricanes regardless of political beliefs was incredible, and the way we rally around people in need in this community is just as heartening.
Just scroll through Chappaqua Moms, to see the compassion of the community helping those in need, (despite some of the other posts on there). Noticing moments like this bring us together as a nation and as a community, regardless of political beliefs and election results. So, this holiday season, whether you’re shopping at ICD or Squires, eating lunch at Le Jardin du Roi or having coffee at Tazza; look up from your phone and really notice the people around you. See the good, and have faith in humanity. Even though we may disagree, we are still very much connected.