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emotional health and well-being

13 Life Lessons from Classic Holiday Movies & Shows

December 4, 2022

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One of my favorite holiday traditions is watching Christmas movies and shows.  I love the feelings of nostalgia that the Claymation shows, like The Year without a Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, evoke.  I also enjoy favorites from not as many years gone by, such as Elf, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Scrooged.  

Holiday movies and specials are not only entertaining, but they also have lessons to help us to elev8 our lives. Some of these life lessons can be found in a few old favorites and some others that may be less well known.  Be advised, there are some spoilers ahead!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

  1. Immerse yourself in holiday music. Before he had his change of heart, singing was one of the things that the Grinch despised. That is, until he joined in and discovered the transformative and healing power of music.  Surround yourself with the music of the season and sing along to your favorites.
  2. Resist commercial pressures. The Grinch learned that the spirit of the season doesn’t come from a store. Focus on the true meaning of the holidays by sharing time with loved ones, being of service to others, and tending to your own health and well-being.
  3. Expand your heart. In the beginning, the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small.  As his preconceived notions about the citizens of Whoville and their Christmas celebration gradually begin to shift, his actions started to reflect his literal change of heart.  The Grinch’s heart then grew three sizes larger, as he returned the stolen toys and decorations and celebrated with his new friends.  Sometimes, opening our minds to a new perspective opens up our heart in unexpected ways, as well.

It’s a Wonderful Life:

  1. Recognize that one person can make a difference. While there may be seemingly impossible or overwhelming challenges, one person really can make a significant difference. George Bailey leads a modest life, but the acts of kindness and unselfishness that he performs throughout his lifetime ultimately make life wonderful for not only himself, but many others, too.  He saves his brother from drowning, prevents the pharmacist from making a fatal mistake, and protects Bedford Falls from being taken over by Mr. Potter.  Never underestimate the power you have to make a positive impact on the life of another person, and never miss the opportunity to let someone know how they have helped make a positive impact.
  2. Look for opportunities to create better outcomes. When we solely focus on negative circumstances or toxic people, we may overlook the fact that we all possess a mix of constructive and destructive qualities. By appealing to the good in people, during the run on Bailey Building and Loan, George tells the crowd of the harm that this will cause their community and implores them to stop.  He reminds them of times they asked for, and received, assistance.  This is enough to make most of them rethink their decision to withdraw all of their money and take only what they need.  George didn’t give up, even when it looks like Mr. Potter will succeed in taking over control of Bedford Falls.  In the end, his friends and family rally around George to save his business and their town.
  3. Accept help from others. At first, George wants no part of Clarence’s offer to assist him, but when he finally accepts Clarence’s support, George is able to see how the world is truly better off because he was born. We all need help from time to time, and sometimes, we need to be reminded of how much the world really does need us and just how wonderful life is after all and in spite of it all.

A Christmas Carol:

  1. Be open to change. We may sometimes feel that our habits are too ingrained to ever change, but that is not necessarily true. The change process starts with the desire to change.  Eventually, after visits from the three ghosts, Scrooge decides that he wants to exchange his life of stinginess and meanness for one of kindness and generosity, before it’s too late.  Once he makes that decision to change, he takes the steps to show his nephew and Bob Cratchit that he cares about them and to be a better person.
  2. Pay attention to your dreams. We spend about one-third of our life sleeping. Put that time to good use by listening to what your dreams may be trying to tell you.  At first, Scrooge ignores that the ghosts in his dreams are trying to help him to change his ways.  When he finally realizes that unless he turns his life around that a horrible fate awaits him, Scrooge wakes up, literally and figuratively, and commits to being kinder, happier, and more generous.  So, look for any recurrent themes in your dreams and decide if there is any action that you can take to implement changes that will elev8 your life.
  3. Make peace with your past. We can’t change our past, but we can certainly learn from it to create a better present and future.  Scrooge’s greed cost him his first love and prevented him from having meaningful connections with his family and Bob Cratchit.  Once he reconciled what he had done previously, Scrooge was able to let go of his past and do some good in the world on that Christmas Day and in the days to come.  
  4. Build resilience. The Cratchit family created a loving, supportive home for themselves, even though they faced hardships, such as poverty and Tiny Tim’s illness. When they gathered around their meager meal, they each took turns sharing what they were thankful for, again, demonstrating their resilience.  Find ways to incorporate love, gratitude, and hope to build and strengthen resilience, no matter what difficulties we may be experiencing .

Pinky and the Brain:

  1. Focus on others. Steven Spielberg’s cartoon is about more than a laboratory mouse trying to take over the world. The genuine friendship between these two mice is apparent when Pinky writes to Santa saying it’s okay to forget about him and just give Brain what he wants. It’s easy to get caught up in what we want to receive during the holidays, and this story reminds us of the importance of finding ways to give to, and support, others.

Joyeux Noel:

  1. Strive for world peace. The true story of the 1914 Christmas truce is captured in this holiday classic.  If German, French, and Scottish troops can call a ceasefire for one Christmas Eve, maybe, we can find ways to create peace in our own lives and extend that peace to people everywhere.

Miracle on 34th Street:

  1. Have faith and believe. This movie reminds us that seeing is not believing, because in order to see, we have to believe first.  One of my favorite quotes is spoken by Fred, who says to Doris, Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not. It’s a simple, yet profound, statement.

I hope that you can carve out some time during this busy season to watch one of your holiday favorites.  As you enjoy them, pay attention to any lessons that can be learned and applied.  Happy holiday viewing, you all!

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