By Pastor Todd DuBord, Mt. Lassen Community Church

For the decade I worked as the Chaplain for Chuck Norris, I had a variety of duties.  I traveled with him to war zones in the Middle East and wounded warrior hospitals around the planet to encourage U.S. troops. I also assisted him in his research for his two syndicated columns: a culture warrior column and his C-Force health & fitness column.

Every year around this time, a barrage of research material would come out about “How to Survive the Holidays.” Much of it was literary fill and fluff, but some contained bits of wisdom I practice every year, and encourage others to as well.

Like many of you, the holidays are my favorite time of year.  But I just don’t want to survive the holidays.  I want to thrive through them.  I don’t want to miss a single sight, smell, sound or moment to create a great memory with my loved ones.  You, too?

Here’s what I consider experts’ best advice –three holistic keys–to keep balanced so you not only survive the holidays but also thrive through them and into the new year.

1. Be grateful.

I know that might sound simple and so Thankgiving-ish, but it’s a powerful tool. Our brains genuinely need to be thankful, every day.  It’s a mental vitamin.  I’ll tell you why.  The mind is a battlefield.  We are wired for negativity.  However, we also have the potential literally to create new neural pathways, and enjoy a more mentally positive life.

Several years ago, USA Today reported on a multiple university study on the power of gratitude.   The researchers discovered that gratefulness really is medicine for the soul.  It can make you both healthier and happier.

The researchers found that those who practiced a thankful attitude lifted their moods, felt less stress and depression, felt less hostile, lowered blood pressure and risks of several disorders, including phobias, bulimia and addictions like alcohol, nicotine and even food!

Gratefulness can even help us stop binging and mood eating over the holidays.  And with studies showing that the average American gains seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years, that’s great news about which we all can be thankful!

As Chris Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan said: “Gratitude may not get people a new job or replenish their retirement accounts, but it can give them the energy they need to tackle their challenges!”

How does being grateful break barriers in our lives? Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis explained: “When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you get angrier; when you express gratitude, you become more grateful.”    It’s that simple.

 2. Don’t allow the holiday’s tyranny of the urgent to control your life.  

Before the chaos hits, conquer it. We already know you are going to have 100 more demands and invites. Learn the power of saying no. Fight for your right to enjoy the holidays.  No one can steal that from you, but you can give it away. Just as you guard an invader from breaking into your house, only you can prevent people from violating your schedule.  I’d bet the average American could get away with doing half what they did last year and feel a lot better for it.  Grab your calendar, and sit down with the family, and decide now what you will do and will not do. Intentionally carve out in your weekly schedule the times you will do nothing but rest, enjoy a warm fire with loved ones, take a drive and look at pretty Christmas decorations, or just sit back and watch your favorite holiday special. Before you schedule the meetings, create the moments.  Lastly, do your best to get to bed at a decent hour.  Make sure you’re fighting for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

I have a line I often quote: If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.  In either case, it only hurts you.

Charles Hummel, the author of Tyranny of the Urgent, offered the best of holiday warnings when he wrote: “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”

3. Often reflect and remind others of the fact that there’s far more to the holidays than consuming

(eating and drinking) and collecting (giving and getting gifts).

You know what really matters.  Spending quality time with family and friends.  Offering your help and charity by volunteering or giving back to others.  Love truly makes the world go round, and our country can use some big doses of it now more than ever before.

John 3:16 in the Bible is often rightly quoted at this time of year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ into the world.  But maybe what we also need to remember is that God’s love letter was delivered 2000 years ago in a manger and on the Cross, but it didn’t stop there.

1 John 3:16 says: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for others.”

Brief Bio:  

Todd DuBord is the Senior Pastor of Mt. Lassen Community Church, which meets in Mt. Lassen Theatre (200 Main St., Chester, Ca.).  They offer two Church Services each Sunday at 8:30AM & 10:30AM, with three Christmas Eve Church Services at 9:30AM, 4PM & 6PM.  Todd’s holiday message series throughout December is “A MeSSy Little Christmas—A Series for the Not-So-Perfect People, Like Me.”  In January 2018, Todd will be starting a New Year’s message series, “The God Answers—For the Skeptic in All of Us.”