From Dread to Delight: Reframing Family Gatherings

Jul 07, 2024

I may be a happiness maven, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with situations that threaten to upend my sense of inner peace.

I come from a very small family. I don’t have a single first cousin and have never met any more distant ones. My dad was frequently transferred from one province to another, so we didn’t have long-term family friends that we spent lots of time with. The five people in my immediate family spent lots of time with my maternal grandparents, but that was about it.

Add to this situation, my mom’s dislike of entertaining or having people over. She was full of insecurities and felt guests would judge her. I grew up believing that having a house full of people was stressful and should be avoided.

My partner has a big family with lots of cousins. When it comes to having guests, the more the merrier. I don’t adjust seamlessly to hosting his family. In truth it would be a perfect time for us to clash if we weren’t aware of the differences at play.

I have to dig deep into my happy mindset toolbox at times like these. Let me share my top three strategies to not only survive the situation, but to be happy about it.

  1. Take a few deep breaths and think about previous times when you were in a similar situation. Did you survive? Maybe you actually enjoyed yourself. If you do it once, you can do it again.
  2. Create a mantra and repeat it often. Make sure it’s in the present tense and is oozing in positivity. “I love spending time with my extended family and always have a good time.” This is actually very true, but everyone needs a reminder from time to time.
  3. Treat yourself to some self-care either before, or after the event is over.

It’s amazing how the attitudes our parents modelled for us still have us in their clutches. Just because it’s your first reaction, that doesn’t mean it has to be your final one. Life is full of choices, and I choose to allow my life to unfold with peace and love. Afterall it will be what it will be regardless of whether I feel dread or excitement. I think I’d prefer to experience the latter.

Small-step – Be aware of the things you dread and try to consciously release your negative feelings. Start by creating a mantra and repeat it until you believe it.

Just because your first reaction is dread, doesn’t mean you can’t change it to delight.

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