Whilst growing up there was always that disconnect between the snowy scenes that all greetings at this time of the year appear to include and living in a country which was leaping into long sunshine-filled summer. I only really *got* festive lights when I moved to the UK and it was suddenly pitch dark at 1600 hours. Now the lights are one of my favourite aspects of the winter months.

What I have found to be the same at this time of year both in the countries I have lived as well as those I have visited during December & January is the warmth of connections. Those connections are often with loved ones and are deeply welcomed. The delightful surprises come through the warmth of connecting with strangers. It may be fleeting or it may be the beginning of a new friendship. Regardless the warmth is there.

I have also observed that this warmth is regardless of the beliefs, ethnicity or geographical location of the people I connect with. Many religions & regions have festivals and positive rituals at this time of year. There is something about this season that brings the best out of people. And it has nothing to do with commercial hype either. This season is when people are celebrating, they are taking time off, they are gathering with loved ones, they are looking forward to something new, they are positive and upbeat. People are being kind to themselves and others.

But it is also the time of the year when some people are incredibly lonely and sad because they feel unconnected. Perhaps they have lost a loved one or ended a relationship. Perhaps they are struggling with health or financial issues. Perhaps they have moved away from ‘home’  and have yet to build new meaningful connections in their new area. Perhaps this year has been a hard one for them. Perhaps they’re so keen for this year to end their whole focus is on getting through these next few weeks because that magical date of 1 January 2017 means something new, bright and shiny.

Now being alone is different from being lonely. Some of my favourite Christmas Days I have spent completely by myself … and that has been sheer magic. However, I have meaningful connections locally and globally where I know that I love and am loved in return. So being alone is never about being disconnected. It is about being true to my own need for space having nurtured those connections at a different time and in different ways.

Having facilitated 8 weeks of the ‘Exploring What Matters’ course for Action for Happiness this year I know that the quality of our connections is what makes the difference. And so I am ensuring that even in the passing connections each day … as I get on the bus, as I buy something from the store, as I pass a neighbour, as I decline to sign up for a charity or buy the ‘Big Issue’ … I am making eye contact, smiling and speaking with a warm tone of voice. Where possible I ask the individual whether they are getting some time off. I compliment them on something they say or they demonstrate. If it is appropriate I invite them to laugh with me. Even these small moments make a difference to each of us involved in that connection.

And I am connecting with my loved ones in different parts of the world in different ways. I may live a planet or a country or a region away from many of them however the connections are deep and they resonate with our love and care for one another. And that is what matters.

How are YOU connecting this season?

Whoever, whatever and wherever … may your festivities be fabulously you in meaningful and connecting ways!