9 Ways To Make It The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


Our family volunteers at Siloam Mission.
Our family volunteers at Siloam Mission.

Yes, it is that most wonderful time of the year. For many of us it is a time to connect with people we love and care about, and to take time to rest and rejuvenate before a new year begins.

Sometimes, it is also a very stressful time of year. There are gifts?to buy, cards to mail, and cookies to make – and those things can take away from the positivity of the season.

Here are some tips to help you make this the most ‘wonderful’ time of the year:

Wake up with a pause: Set your alarm for just one minute earlier than you normally do. When the alarm goes off, before you get out of bed, choose to pause, smile and think of one thing for which you are grateful (it might even be that you are grateful to be able to pause and smile!).

Open your heart to a stranger: Purposefully, look for opportunities to connect with someone who is a stranger to you – it might be the waiter in a restaurant you visit for lunch, or maybe it’s the cab driver taking you where you need to go. Stop, and do something small that opens your heart (ask the waiter what he is hoping for over the holidays, tell the cab driver how appreciative you are to be able to jump in to a nice, warm vehicle).

Network with people you really like: Yes, we always hear how important it is to attend all of the holiday events and network, network, network. Well, this holiday season, choose to network with people who are positive and fun – only! Be polite to everyone else, but spend your precious time and neural resources on the people who are adding something positive to your day.

Decide to focus on ‘what’s good’: After you pause, smile and think of something for which you are grateful, spend your time in the shower and on the commute to work asking yourself ‘what’s good today?’ ?Then, continue through the day, asking everyone else!

Energize your mind, body and soul by volunteering:?This time of year inevitably presents opportunities to volunteer your time to help others. While help is needed all year long, you will benefit greatly by deciding to volunteer at this time of year. Our family has served dinner at a Mission, donated gifts to a family who lost their home in a fire, and provided food and holiday crafts to at-risk young people who are not able to be in their own home for the holidays. Every volunteer experience has added greatly to our individual and collective well-being.

Refresh your vibe: Are your decorations the same old ones you’ve had for years? Have you never owned a ‘tacky holiday sweater’? Well make this the year that you refresh your vibe by adding a new element to your home decor, wearing a holiday garment that will surprise your friends, or doing just about anything that makes you giggle.

Finish that project you started long ago: You know you’ve got them; that Afghan you started crocheting when your nephew was born (and he’s now 31), that wooden table that you thought you wanted to paint as a gift for your sister, those shelves you’ve wanted to reorganize for ages. Do it now!

Undo what you normally might do: You normally do your shopping early so you can avoid the malls for most of the month – this year, do it differently and shop on December 20th. Notice what new transformations arise for you!

Link everything to joy: No matter what happens – if traffic is slow, if your late shopping (see point above) causes a little anxiety for you, if you simply cannot find that toy your daughter really wants – reframe the experience to create a more joyful response (this slow traffic is giving me a chance to take a few deep breaths before I get to work, the high energy in the mall is helping me to be more efficient in my shopping process, my daughter will discover that her happiness over the holidays is not linked to any material object).

What do you do the make the holidays as happy as possible? We’d love to hear your ideas.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and prosperity!



Love IS a Drug!!

The Look of Love!
The Look of Love!

It’s the month of love…Valentine’s Day on the 14th marks the half-way point in the shortest month of the year. ?Spring is around the corner, and moods seem to be lifting (especially for those of us who have lived through a bit of a deep freeze this winter).

I am thoroughly enjoying a brain seminar series hosted by Ruth Buczynski, PhD, and have learned a ton from eminent speakers including Rick Hanson and Daniel Goleman so far. ?This week, it’s Bruce Lipton?who will be sharing some of his research on how emotions (thoughts, perceptions) influence our genes.

Since we are well into this month of love, I thought Dr. Lipton’s research would be particularly interesting to share now. ?It helps to uncover why we look happier and healthier when we are in love. You have surely noticed that sparkle in your friend’s eye, or that blushing, glowing face staring back at you when love is present. ?That happier, healthier ‘glow’ has to do with the chemicals that are released in your brain when you are experiencing a loving feeling.

Perceiving/noticing/thinking about someone you love releases chemicals in your brain that match your perception of that person. ?Love releases chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin and even growth hormone into your blood. When these chemicals are released and interact with your cells, your cells grow…in fact, they flourish. That is why, Dr. Lipton explains, people in love look so sparkly and happy. ?That lovely chemical reaction in their brain is filling and feeding healthy cell growth. ?It is creating life!

Likewise, Dr. Lipton notes, stress and sadness can actually keep your cells from growing properly.?When you are experiencing stress or fear, dopamine, oxytocin and growth hormone are replaced by cortisol being released into your blood. Cortisol not only causes cells to stop growing, it causes them to die. Cortisol kills.

So the same person can experience two different results (chemically and biologically) simply from two different perceptions. A simple thought, then, can be a matter of life and death! ?So it follows, according to Dr. Lipton, life is controlled by our thoughts, not our genes.

Love IS a drug – and it’s the kind of drug that creates life. ?Your thoughts, your perceptions create your experience of a happy, healthy life.

Stress is also a drug – and that’s the kind of drug that takes life. ?”Lifestyle – and responses to life – are responsible for the vast majority of illness on this planet.” says Dr. Lipton.

In my seminars, I encourage people to “Do ‘Dope’ and Avoid ‘Cort'”. Dopamine and Cortisol both change your brain chemistry – one for better, and the other for worse. ?Lipton describes what happens in your brain – and your body – when you are experiencing love. ?It changes your brain and your cells. It also changes what’s written all over your face (which, by the way, attracts or repels the presence of more love in your life!).

So, during this month of February, focus on LOVE:

Look for love (anything that makes you smile all over…your spouse, your kids, your dog, your new love interest…)

Opt for positive thoughts (focus on what’s good, spend time contemplating what is working versus what is not, choose to think positively about yourself and others)

Veer away from negative emotion (reframe/reappraise negative experiences to create more positive emotion)

Engage in changing your brain (take action to change your brain to work FOR you, rather than falling victim to it working AGAINST you)!

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!



Tell a Story, Change a Life

Ali and Max 2000
Ali and Max 2000

Christmas morning, 2000. Max was 3 and Ali was 6. Our tradition had been (and still is) that Randy headed down stairs to turn on the tree lights and grab the video camera. Then Ali, Max and I march down stairs for the big ‘reveal’ of the tree and all it’s splendor, the gifts waiting to be opened, the bursting full stockings, and – of course – the plate of crumbs and empty glass of milk left by Santa.



Ali and Max stood side by side, eyes wide open and smiles bigger than their faces, saying some version of ‘Santa came, Santa was here!’.

Randy began to ask questions (for our video collection which Randy and I are pretty sure we will spend our retirement going over and over and over!!).

‘So, did anyone hear anything on the rooftop last night?’

‘Yes, yes , yes!!’ says Ali.

‘I heard footsteps and I also heard some clicking sounds – I think it was Santa and Rudolph!!’

‘Then I heard some crunching sounds and drinking sounds – like chew, chew, chew and glug, glug, glug – it was Santa eating the treat we left him! He must have liked it – look, it’s all gone!’

Max’s eyes got even bigger as he listened to Ali describe all of the sounds she heard.

‘Me too…that is what I heard! I heard Santa and Rudolph too! I did!!!!’ ?Enthusiasm and conviction radiated from his every pore!

I can remember that morning as clear as a bell. As Ali described the story of what she had ‘experienced’, Max was also living that story. Just like maybe you are experiencing a similar story from your life, just by reading this one from mine.

Leo Wildrich wrote a blog post called What listening to a story does to our brains. ?In that post, Leo shares:

“When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says?Uri Hasson?from Princeton:

?When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized.? When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.? When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs.?By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners? brains.?

Anything you?ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you?ve activated that way, active too.

That’s what happened when Ali told her story of Santa and Rudolph; Max’s brain synchronized with hers. ?She, in essence, gave him his first gift that Christmas morning!

Brains love stories. ?When we hear a story, we relate it to our own experience and that helps the story to ‘stick’ in our minds.

Leo adds four tips for using stories as a communication tool: 1) Tell stories that reflect something important you’d like the listener to think, feel or do (their brain will turn the story into something from their own experience – and it will become ‘their’ story); 2) Write using stories – your own or those of another expert to persuade your audience; 3) Keep your stories simple (less complex stories are ‘stickier’), and 4) Use colorful, emotional words in your stories (some words or phrases like ‘a bad day’ or ‘be responsible’ are overused and begin to lack meaning for people and, thus, lack ‘stickiness’).

So, as the holiday season approaches, what stories can you share – at home and at work? I’d love to hear one of your stories from holidays past (and my brain will definitely thank you – as will the brains of everyone else who reads your story!) ?Let’s spread some good holiday storytelling cheer!!