What does the season of goodwill mean to you?

What do you think of when you think of the festive season? For me, if I don’t catch myself, I start to panic about presents (Christmas follows hot on the heels of both sons’ birthdays), how to fit everything in, and what we’re going to eat on the big day.

Over the past few years though, I’ve tried to be more conscious about where my thoughts take me. Who made the law that we need a big roast on Christmas Day? We experimented with a buffet of our favourite foods  a couple of years ago and everyone was so much happier.

And this year I’m remembering Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill. Not just to all men (pah!) – but to all of us, including ourselves.

What is goodwill?

Again, I know from my own experience that there’s a big difference between doing nice things because we feel like we should, and because we genuinely see the purpose in them. I worried I’d disappoint my family if we didn’t have ‘proper’ Christmas food, but actually found that making the change made for a more light-hearted, fun day, with no worries about burnt potatoes or how many sprouts to cook.

What’s this got to do with goodwill? Well, I think that in order to truly embrace goodwill, we need to tune into what matters to us, and those around us. Not what we’ve always done, or what we’re told matters. To go beneath that and think about what’s really important. And then act on it, generously.

And that means starting from scratch. To borrow declutterer Marie Kondo’s approach, to take everything out and only put back in what ‘sparks joy’. To go back to my food example, it was important to be with loved ones and eat food we enjoyed for Christmas. That really did not look like a traditional Christmas dinner. It did mean thinking about what everyone liked and what was simple to prepare so that we could make the most of our time together without some of us slaving away in the kitchen for a meal we weren’t that fussed about.

The missing ingredient

One vital ingredient that’s usually forgotten about, whether it’s to do with goodwill or anything else, is ourselves. It’s all very well being loving and generous to other people. But if we don’t include ourselves in that love and generosity, sooner or later we burn out. We exhaust ourselves. And we resent others for it. When actually, the answer starts with us.

So this season of goodwill my focus is on goodwill to myself, as well as those around me. Not in a Scrooge-like way! It’s simply that I am going to make an effort to remember I need to be kind to myself. Partly so I can role-model that self-kindness to my boys and others around me. And partly because I simply know it’s essential for me to do good elsewhere.

Pay it forward

I intend to use this season of goodwill to pay it forward. To respond to kindness I’ve been shown by moving it on. The pandemic, and all the lockdowns we’ve been through have brought home to me the importance of social connection. So I intend to pay it forward by supporting a local initiative here in York whose aim is to alleviate loneliness and isolation. The group is called Xmas Presence and this year they are delivering Christmas dinner and hampers to elderly people who otherwise would be alone. If you want to check them out you can find them on Facebook.

And, this year, as I recognise that I’m included in my own goodwill, I intend to pay it forward to my future self, as well as to others. I am booking myself in for a whole series of massages in 2022. And scheduling regular time-outs in nature. And I will defend them to the hilt!

What does paying it forward look like for you – paying both others and yourself? Of course, regular massage or reflexology readily ticks both boxes! A massage or reflexology session is so much more than ‘pampering’. It can be a real unburdening, a time of lightness that flows into the rest of your week.

So do think about whether you can give yourself, or a loved one, the gift of something that will really make a difference this season of goodwill.

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