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A Month with Delights, Desires, Dreams – and Depression

 Forward thinking!


For me, this time of the year is all about feelings and friendship. I want to look at Christmas and the Festive Season in a different way this year – I want to look at it, by way of the heart. When we see each other, we see their bodies, but not what they think or how they feel. So it makes sense to me to say, ‘we are our bodies’. And as soon as we allow yourself to look deeper, we may discover that ‘we actually are our thoughts and our feelings’.

In a busy world and people who are constantly trying to avoid dying, rather than to enjoy living, it becomes a challenge to really ‘see’ others, as they truly are.

We’re living in days where instrumental scientific discoveries about the heart’s wisdom and power are revealed. Words like, ‘the heart thinks, feels, remembers, loves and hates’ are not just lightly thrown out as research, but published in recognized articles and documents by professors and scientists in Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology, Psycho Neuro Immunology as well as Pharmaceutical Fields of research. Personally, I cannot imagine anyone in our day, publishing such life-changing information, risking their credibility by providing us with hogwash or any form of Psycho-babble, if it is not true!

So, I am inspired to write about our feelings this month, and how we can learn and apply the wisdom and power of heartfelt feelings to make this December and this Christmas, one of the best ones we’ve ever had!  Now – fasten your seat belts and prepare for an uplifting take-off!

The first feelings that spring to my mind when I look around me and think about Christmas, are feelings of delight, devotion, thankfulness, jubilant and peace. But I am also aware of feelings of despair and depression. Christmas is a time when many of us experience a host of feelings – from feeling blessed and loved, to feeling lonely and tender.

I have asked myself a thousand times, ‘Why do we feel so many feelings over this time of the year? Why do we see so many loved ones trying to beat the blues over Christmas?’ As a researcher, I talk to people, I organise focus groups and I love studying the results of (for example) the Gallup Organization, which gives us trustworthy information about people and how they feel. One of the latest small groups I have engaged with is the older folks in our midst. It was clear to me that they spent many hours thinking, wishing, longing and going down memory lane. They think about all the things that happened during the year, and all the things that didn’t happen – and these thoughts play off in colourful images in their minds and even keep them awake at night.  

Take my hand in your imagination, and come with me. I am going to visit someone in a nearby Retirement Village. Imagine we are walking into this Village to visit a woman who has been widowed during the year. Her place is neatly decorated with a modest small Christmas tree placed on the coffee table with a few small gifts wrapped up next to it. We are invited in for tea and small biscuits and started talking about Christmas. During moments of reflective silence, we asked her about her family. She had a far-away look in her eyes and with a thoughtful smile replied, ‘I only have three children. All married years ago – but I also have nine lovely grandchildren and two great-grandchildren!’  She slowly continued and, in an affectionate yet dejected way, said, ‘They have all gone on different holidays, some even as far as Texas in America! But I am OK. I have the neighbours looking in here, every second day’.

Personally, I don’t think she is OK. She is just one of thousands of other older folks, trying her best not to ‘interrupt’ or ‘spoil’ her children’s Christmas holiday. It hurts me to just think about it!

This imaginative visit I just shared with you, takes me straight into even more luminous research done on the effect of love, caring and friendship in all our lives – from the youngest to the oldest in our midst.

I lack the words to describe the value of friendship in every relationship. Family members can be friends as well, although that is not a guarantee. And when we allow our hearts to talk to us, we will become aware of the ones in our lives, who have become so close to us, that although they are friends, they feel like family. Whichever way we look at this, the depth and value of feeling the love and care of a friend is priceless! It affects our health, our performances at work, the way we respond to what happens to us – and to say it more daringly, everything about us!

The data I have examined, revealed that we are faced with a pre-eminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, and with that the power of kindness and caring, we must cultivate the science of human relationships. We simply cannot take the relationships we have with those we love, for granted. There is vast, untapped potential in the people in our lives, if we are willing to improve the quality of our friendships.

Friends and family members do shape our lives, and it is during December that many aspects around love, caring, devotion and sharing show up and leave us either elated – or empty.

Research at The Heartmath Institute in California, USA documented the unprecedented power of loving feelings between people who care for and respect one another. They powerfully suggest blissful, instead of broken hearts, to enhance our immunity and healing of physical ailments, as well as promote flowing, creative and genuine feelings in human relationships. Documentation about the healing power of love and caring is astounding and leaves me silent.

Moments of blissful silence are good for my soul, and I have come up with a few creative suggestions to re-invent the value of fervent friendship in all our lives:

  • Talk about the people in your life. Discuss who they are and why they are important to you. Then make a list. The number of people/couples is not very important, but hey – I hope you have some builders, champions, companions, energizers and connectors to mention only a few descriptions of personality ‘diamonds’ in your group! Your cousin, school friend or a new colleague may even be a mirror friend if you make the time to think about him!
  • Plan an event or a few to strengthen the bond of friendship. This can be a simple dinner at your home, but with an atmosphere that shouts delight, generosity, harmony, peace, support, thankfulness and other worthy characteristics of friendship.
  • Create a game (or two) that will inspire curiosity about each other and help you to get to know more about your friend. There are numerous ideas of such group games on Google if you type the word, Creativity Games into your computer. These games cause laughter and fun, both strong tools to bond people together.
  • Play 60 seconds (not 30 seconds) with your husband/wife in bed and laugh together before you lovingly fall asleep together.
  • Plan a day away in your area where you can all participate in outdoor activities. I have seen several adventure sites around Pretoria – and believe me – you get to know a LOT about your friend when you sweat together! Give names to each group/couple and compete a bit. Create some spirit, by putting the ladies against the guys – the ideas are out there – it’s up to you to make something of them.
  • Organise a creativity evening. Tell your friends they must each be somebody else for that night. They may only, after about two hours into the evening, tell who they were – and then the party can begin!
  • Karaoke evenings can also be a simple idea that you can do in your own home. Private singers/entertainers ask for a small fee and will do the whole set-up for you and keep you laughing and singing the whole night through.
  • Ordinary board games are also great ways to enjoy friendship and get to know your friends well. Let the food you serve, be simple yet tasteful. Focus on building, and investing in friendship – it’s all about the quality of others in your life! It’s also about what you mean to them, and re-discovering what they mean to you.

One doesn’t have to be an artist or visionary to create beauty and value in something like friendship. We only need to apply some ideas and motivate others who have similar wishes.

I grew up in a family where we believed in Christmas Father. We wrote letters to him and my dad even left cold drinks and sweets on top of the fridge for him when he ‘dropped the presents’ in all our rooms. We were six children and all of us firmly believed that he was a real person. I don’t regret the joy I personally got out of that fantasy.

We are all able to bring fantasy back into our lives during this month of December. My personal quest is to bring this by way of investing in the people in my life – family members, friends, colleagues – actually, those who want to, are interested in me, and those who share the same values as I do!

During the last two days of my mom’s life, she told me in truly forceful ways, ‘My girl – your greatest wealth – wealth you cannot buy anywhere in the world – especially when you are getting older – is your friends – those people you give room to roam in your heart!’  Her words are still radiantly ringing in my life. Especially now. In December 2023.

December and Christmas are also known for their stress and feelings of depression. Many feel listless, tired and worthless. Interestingly too is the fact that a large number of people get sick in December – suicides are higher in number – and studies show it has much to do with people’s immune systems being ‘attacked’ by stressful life events. The higher the levels of stress, the lower the body’s immunity becomes. Being an avid student of the brain, I know that continued stressful situations, and destructive states of the mind, alter the functioning of the brain, as well as the functioning of the immune system.

I have also learned that ‘the mind is everywhere in the body’ and an attack on you – which may be in the form of rejection, criticism, or avoidance to connect, has the same effect on the brain and the body, as a virus or germ. (Dr. Daniel Amen/Dr Paul Pearsal, Dr Eric Braverman, and Dr Dale Anderson, to name a few).

Helping those who feel depressed and lonely this Christmas

Focus your energy more effectively this month. Unfocused energy is experienced in the form of restlessness or hyperactivity. When you feel a bit restless or hyperactive at any time of any day, here are a few lively suggestions to utilize your energy more productively:

  • Decide to go to ANY Children’s Home, Retirement Village, Hospital Ward or even a place where you know there are people with needs. Follow the rules and protocol of the place, and offer your help for an hour or two, to assist and/or make someone else happy. We often think we don’t have the personality to do this, or ‘what IF they think I am an intruder?’ These are simply excuses. When you present yourself with confidence (and remember, the person/s you will speak to, are strangers to you anyway!) you will be the one surprised by the response you might get. This is where you can be creative: You can choose to go and sit with a lonely aged person, have a conversation with him or her, or tell stories to a small child in a hospital ward, or fascinate a teenager living in a communal set-up with a gift or even something neat you have not worn this past year! Let your mind dwell on creative ways to dazzle someone in depression by giving yourself, your time and a gift.
  • When you have learned about someone who is depressed and lonely, suggest taking a walk with that person in a beautiful park. Smell the roses with him, share warm feelings and stroll in time – just the mere fact that you get the person out of his environment can have a lovely effect on his mood.
  • Start to collect a few good and positive real-life stories. There are many! Find out who you can visit and create the atmosphere to tell these stories and then offer a sincere ear to listen to the feedback you might receive.
  • Giving your extras away to those who don’t have them creates a tremendous feeling-good state in your own mind and body. I can remember times when I gave the so-called ‘redundant’ things like an extra iron, kettle, lamp or blanket away to teenagers who study in small rooms and share everything between them, left me cheerful and they were grateful.
  • Adopt an 80-Plusser for a half day and take this person on the Gautrain to Sandton – there are vibey Uber Drivers to take you to the front of the fanciest coffee shop – and spoil this person with the most delicious cake you can visualize! And while eating this with her, licking your fingers like a child will do and create moments that will forever be imprinted in her memory.

You now may ask, ‘And Annie – what if I feel depressed and lonely?’ 

Don’t feel alone. Millions of people feel like this during Christmas.

Our heart teaches us that we do not always laugh, or feel happy, because we are free of suffering – but because we accept that in life, there will be suffering. All of us at times in our life feel despondent and depressed. I have learned that even the so-called happiest people go through terrific moments of depression, and I have experienced it myself. Meditation has helped me to get in touch with my inner being and ‘drop’ the guilt of feeling depressed.

Become more aware of what your heart is telling you about life. Learn to meditate and ‘shift the brain aside’ for a while, to get heart messages and ideas of where and how you can uplift someone else who is in despair during these times. Allow stillness and embrace your thoughts, even when they seem to be negative. And then, when you become aware of the thoughts, talk to yourself and say, ‘I was created to overcome this. God’s grace is sufficient for me. And goodness and mercy will also follow me…’

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