If you want to have over the top “great holidays” here’s a suggestion.

Most holidays would be, “over the top,” if not for the frenetic pace in which most of us operate. The sheer pace of the season puts stress on what ought to be a joyful time. The key or secret then, is to slow down—even if you get fewer things done. Perhaps you can’t bake as much as you’d like, or go to every single holiday party, or send out quite as many cards, or even buy as many presents. Heck, there are other advantages to that anyway, like your credit card balances in January.

By slowing down, and doing slightly fewer things, you’ll end up enjoying everything you’re doing so much more. You’ll be more present with the people around you, who will create more intimacy and closeness, and you’ll appreciate every aspect of the holiday season. It works for me and I know it will work for you too!

When we’re moving too fast, rushing around and scrambling, we lose two very important parts to ourselves, our perspective and our wisdom. So, the end result is that we lose our gratitude, and our expectations are never met. Nothing is ever good enough. Everything seems like an emergency, so when even the littlest thing goes wrong (and something always will), we feel like things “aren’t perfect.” I’ve seen people so frantic around the holidays, that when a single batch of cookies gets burned, they freak out like it’s a national emergency!

When we slow down, however, we realize the perfection and beauty within the imperfection. In fact, we drop the need to label things as “perfect” or “imperfect,” and we simply accept things are they are. In fact, when something does happen to go amiss, you’ll find yourself laughing it off, seeing it as part of the process. One year, a friends Christmas lights all went out the night of his party, but rather than freak out, he decided that it was amazing that everything other aspect of the party had come together beautifully. He focused on what was right instead of what went wrong.

Slowing down has a magical quality to it. It allows you to read your holiday cards a little more carefully, write your own with a little more love in them, be just a tiny bit more generous, be more kind to the strangers you meet and, probably most importantly, when something does go “wrong,” whatever it is, you can honestly say “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” There will be more love in your heart and when you have what you need, from an emotional perspective, you’re natural instinct will be to give more love to others.

Don’t worry about it, if everyone else is rushing around. If you’re able to be a bit slower and not act like every little thing is an emergency, it will be very contagious. Others around you will feel calmer and more secure and, although they may not now what it is, they will be much more fun to be around. There will be far less grumpiness this year around your holiday table and it will be replaced by laughter and good cheer. I’m going to guess that if you slow down, you’ll also find ways to bring more joy to even more people in your life—those you know as well as total strangers. You’ll be more generous and by being so, you’ll brighten the season for many. Indeed, this is Christmas is going to be “over the top,” wonderful and it’s going to be in large part, simply because you slowed down enough to enjoy every aspect of it. Merry Christmas!

Richard Carlson column Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Knight Ridder, December 18th, 2005