In the past I have been critical of the tree in Trafalgar Square, outside our office window. It was nothing compared to e.g. the Rockefeller Center in NY. This year I went to the lighting ceremony and returned moved and humbled. This 2009 tree grew for 80 years beside one of the WW2 escape routes. Britain welcomed many Norwegians in exile – the government, monarchy and people. In gratitude, the Norwegians give a tree every year – for Freedom and Friendship. No, it isn’t a perfect shape but somehow that doesn’t matter any more. 9th Dec On a very packed and delayed train, a man’s phone kept ringing with a salsa tune. Tension rose until finally the women next to him said,’I Don’t care how often you play that, I’m still not dancing with you!’ Everyone laughed and the atmosphere in the carriage relaxed. The train was still late but humour and some emotional intelligence had helped us see everything differently. Ask yourself- how would Eddie, Michael or a comedian of your choice see the bizarre in this situation? 10th Dec Commuting, while often sweaty and exhausting, is a rich source of anecdotes if you spend your time observing people. I heard yesterday- a dapper, exquisitely groomed gentleman of 81 (he talked of marrying his wife at 28, 53 years ago. I did the maths) spoke of his fortune in having great health. He said, ‘It’s the only time I wish I believed in God – so that I could thank him for this gift. I am so grateful and I’d like to thank someone!’ Positive Psychology discovered that expressing gratitude measurably raises your own well being, that of your recipient and the good feelings of anyone observing. Whatever we may be going through, we all have so much to be grateful for. Express your gratitude fulsomely, genuinely and if possible in front of an audience. Spread the good feelings this Christmas. 11th Dec Our Big Issue seller Steve (find him on the Strand) has been through tough trials in his life but is the most engaging salesman you can find. He knows all his regulars, gives us Christmas cards, speaks to everyone and then dresses up as Santa and gives away presents every year. He doesn’t have that much but he likes to give back. Pass it on but do be careful offering sweets to strangers. 12th Dec Research shows that having people in your life protects against stress and depression. While having all of them under your roof to feed and entertain at Christmas may seem to add to your stress, in fact you are investing in a potential resource from which you can draw when you most need it. Get to know your neighbours you never usually see. Invite them in for a no hassle, shop bought mince pie. Be welcoming and hospitable – network just like you do at work. 13th Dec If you haven’t inherited many good Christmas traditions, invent new ones. Christmas doesn’t have to be all hot and bothered department store or lonely internet shopping. Get out and try skating or visit Christmas markets for the fun of drinking gluhwein out of doors. Positive Psychology talks of the concept ‘born yesterday’ and asks, ‘If you were born yesterday, what would you choose as habits, hang ups or rituals?’ Choose ones that are life affirming rather than perpetuating those you don’t enjoy or that drive you batty. 14 Dec It really is ‘the thought that counts’ but that is often used as an excuse for giving a present that has no relevance to the individual but was all you could find at the petrol station late on Christmas Eve! Apparently more couples start divorce proceedings in January after receiving a ‘thoughtless’ present. It usually isn’t about the monetary value but the meaning. Take time to do something really sentimental – dig out a photo, a piece of music or reference whatever it was that brought you and your partner together in the first place. Choose a good time to remind them of why you are together. While they are wrestling the turkey out of the oven is NOT a good time. Dancing together to ‘your song’ and embarrassing your children is not however an entirely bad thing.