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Dr Maurice Duffy Shares Seven Ways to Show People you Care this Christmas

Seven Ways to Show People you Care this Christmas
December 2023
Reading time 3 Minutes

Living North columnist Dr Maurice Duffy explains how important it is to appreciate what we have and show people we care, and why that shouldn't just be at Christmas time

As we approach the end of 2023, we find ourselves grappling with unprecedented anxieties. It's disheartening that nearly 20 million adults still remain silent about their mental health struggles, a number that's poised to rise given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and escalating global tensions.

This era seems marked by an overwhelming fear of the world, a pervasive sense of isolation, and an increasingly challenging battle with our own well-being. I recently had a conversation with Jane, a teacher in Newcastle, who confessed to struggling with discussing her mental health. The weight of financial concerns exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, coupled with the turmoil in Ukraine and the Middle East, has left her feeling isolated and vulnerable. ‘The absence of someone to confide in about my mental health has left me even more alone.’ Jane admitted to me. This is not the spirit in which we should enter the Christmas season.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an allegorical masterpiece, featuring characters and events with profound symbolic significance. Dickens vividly portrays the visiting ghosts, each representing distinct aspects of human experience. The inequalities, injustices and cruelties observed by Dickens in 1843 persist in our world today, making his critiques as valid and relevant as ever.

Read More: 12 Charities that Need Your Support this Christmas

Ebenezer Scrooge stands as the embodiment of values antithetical to Christmas; greed, selfishness, and a lack of goodwill toward others. The Ghost of Christmas Past embodies our regrets, resentments, and past hurts. The Ghost of Christmas Present represents generosity, empathy, and the essence of Christmas spirit, while the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come epitomises the future that we have the power to shape. Scrooge’s transformation throughout the story, from a miserly old man to a figure of redemption, carries a profound lesson for us all.

Dickens’ narrative appeals to our innate understanding of shared values that often go unspoken. It addresses some of the most pressing concerns faced by people worldwide, challenges that demand our attention and response. This story encourages reflection on fundamental questions: What truly contributes to our happiness? Are we living our best lives? What does it mean to be our authentic selves? How can we manifest the generosity and kindness within us? Are we genuinely expressing love and compassion?

From Dickens’ tale, I draw seven essential lessons that hold particular significance at this time of year:

Express Love Wholeheartedly
My son has taught me a valuable lesson. He concludes every interaction with ‘love you’. Express your love openly and boldly this Christmas season. Say, ‘I LOVE YOU,’ and express gratitude for the people in your life.

The Past: A Reference, Not a Residence
To overcome the past, you must first accept that it is behind you. No matter how often you revisit it, analyse it, or regret it, the past is over. Discard it, forgive yourself, and move forward.

Cease the Internal Conflict
Your inner critic is not your ally. The voices in our head can be far harsher than external criticisms. Alter the way you think and infuse more positivity into your thoughts.

Your Mind, Your Rules
Don’t allow others to dictate the path of your thoughts and life. Be your authentic self with your unique ideas and perspectives. Be the change you wish to see.

Gratitude for the Present
Strive to find reasons to be thankful and appreciate who you are and what you possess. Spend more time enjoying what you have rather than yearning for more.

Stay Present
Do not squander today by dwelling on yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Disconnect from the cacophony of social media and daily life, even if it’s just for a few moments. Breathe deeply and, if possible, allocate time for meditation.

Laughter and Self-Reflection
Laugh heartily, laugh often, and most importantly, laugh at yourself. Your brain responds positively to such gestures. Embrace more laughter, smiles, and a longer life.

Christmas isn’t confined to a single day; it’s a state of mind to be embraced all year long. Remember, you are not your thoughts. This Christmas, choose to be the person you’ve always aspired to be. In the words of Bob Hope: ‘My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?’

Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland University, consulting coach to the NHS, the Australian cricket team, Durham Cricket Club, elite sporting professionals, senior FTSE 100 business leaders and politicians around the world. @drmauriceduffy

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