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If you want big life changes, don’t start at Christmas

December is a blur for most people.

There’s enormous pressure: winding up work for the year, planning for next year, the end of the school year, finding childcare.

Then there are all the events: in-laws, parents, brothers and sisters and their families, the Christmas work party.

There may be the dread of people coming together who don’t get along. The gossip. The tension. Worse, some may get verbally nasty, especially if there’s alcohol mixed in.

Christmas is a time of avoidance, distraction, and often failed or extreme attempts at self-soothing.

And added to all that, it’s often a time when you may be thinking about how the year has gone, and how you want next year to be different, to be ‘better’. You’ll be ‘good’.

If you want to make big life changes, don’t start now. It’s too overwhelming, and the nasty critic in your head is at its loudest and meanest.

You may also hear one I call the ‘f*ck it’ voice. It’s the one that once you’ve drunk or eaten more than you planned goes ‘yeah, f*ck it, eat some more, it’s too late anyway.’

Here’s how to turn this time of year into something useful.

Christmas is the perfect time to simply watch what’s going on for you. We do a lot of things at this time of year that we don’t tend to do at any other time so important patterns tend to stand out more.

Observing things sounds simple, but you might be wondering how to do it. One way is to do a little visualisation. Imagine yourself rising into the sky and looking down on a day in your life. Think of what a drone would see if it was flying above everything. Instead of moment after moment of little dramas, decisions, calls, and discussions, try to notice what you’re doing.

For example, you might realise you hear a voice saying things like:

  • “I shouldn’t do this”

  • “I’ll be better tomorrow”

  • “It’s just one, it doesn’t matter.”

  • A lot of it is you trying to justify what you morally judge to be ‘bad’ behaviour. Worse, there’s shame.

  • “You ate that chocolate when you said you wouldn’t, you’re such a f*ck up.”

When you step back and observe, you give yourself space to look at things more objectively. If you’re in a room full of delicious food that you find incredibly tempting, you’re going to have some. It’s highly likely you’ll enjoy it and eat more than you intended and it’s completely understandable. Celebrating, being with people you love, and eating, are all vital ways we connect and find meaning in our lives.

For some people, it could be the opposite – you police yourself strictly when you’re in a group, and then eat more when you’re alone.

Watch how you behave when you’re in a big group versus when you’re alone. There will be times when you find it easier to say no to foods you find enjoyable or simply don’t notice them.

The point isn’t to judge yourself as good or bad. It’s to see patterns so you can work out your next steps.

The next step isn’t about getting a sterner internal police officer. It’s about working on what you need to take care of yourself.

This kind of observation of yourself is important because it’s impossible to change unless we first acknowledge our patterns of behaviour.

It’s very tempting to think of Christmas as the perfect time for a big reframe.

But now isn’t the time to make changes because you – and everyone around you – is under similar pressures, and practicing varying ways of self-soothing. If food or alcohol is a way you self-soothe and you want to change it, it’s very difficult to do that at the most stressful time of year when both are present in extra generous quantities.

All I suggest you do this Christmas is notice. Set an intention to be genuinely curious, like you’re David Attenborough watching zebras. It’s difficult because as soon as you notice something – for example, that you ate more than you thought you should during a big family meal – the critical voice in your head is immediately going to want to explain things. It wants to assign meaning and certainty to it, usually a negative judgement of yourself or others, or both. It will do this in an instant, before you realise it.

So all you’re doing at this stage is gathering information. It’s going to help you form a life blueprint, a way to see what works for you, and what doesn’t.

And no, this isn’t a way to come up with New Year’s resolutions either. The goal is to begin a new phase of your life. There’s no finish line – it’s about finding purposeful, loving ways to create your life rather than always reacting to what’s going on around you.

 Copyright: Kate Berridge,, 2023


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