We all want to experience positive feelings and feel thankful for the lives we lead, but this is no easy feat. Often, this demands a conscious effort from us to both live the lives we want and also practice gratitude. We must take the time to recognize good things, big and small, while working toward our goals. Chanukah is the ideal time to begin reflecting on and re-shaping our perspective to include mindfulness and appreciation.
On Chanukah, we light the menorah. This small act of lighting candles fills the whole room with light. Just like a candle brightens a space, gratitude can brighten our outlook on life and helps us feel hopeful. Many of us live in a place of darkness because of stressful life events, mental health struggles, or interpersonal conflict. But we do not have to stay in the dark. In honor of Chanukah, I’m introducing the Chanukah Chipper Challenge to help us practice the skills of gratitude and living consciously, so that this year we will all turn on the light! The Chipper Challenge is indeed a challenge; it is a way to push ourselves to reflect on our thoughts and actions in an effort to enhance our personal wellbeing. This challenge is not about attaining happiness, but rather a state of being that encapsulates joy, cheer, and living blissfully in the moment – feeling chipper! (Also, isn’t the word “chipper” so fun to say!?)
Each night of Chanukah, there is a task for you to complete. Do it! You may want to compile your creations in a journal or take a picture of yourself completing the task. This will allow you to capture the moment and remember the work you did to brighten the light that surrounds you. This year, you are the menorah.
Choose a quote that inspires you and decorate it. You can use any art supplies that are easily accessible, such as construction paper, markers, or stickers. Alternatively, you can create your project simply with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Write out your uplifting quote and draw shapes and swirls of joy around the axiom. When choosing a quote, consider what specifically motivates you, brings a smile to your face, or helps you keep a chipper perspective. Here are some examples of quotes:
“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
– Steve Jobs
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– A.A. Milne
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”
– George Addair
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
– Alphonse Karr
Write a list of five things you did this past year that you are proud of. Both things you have done for yourself and for others are important to acknowledge. Again, all you need is a sheet of paper and a pencil. The challenge is in reflecting deeply.
Find a picture of yourself that captures you at a time when you felt really happy. Remind yourself of what you felt when the photograph was taken. Consider the circumstances that allowed you to feel happiness and what was going on for you at that time. Hint: Happiness often comes from within.
As the candles burn, sit down and watch them. Take a pause from your hectic schedule. Visualize yourself in a room that is filled with your favorite things. What color are the walls? Is it cluttered with objects or sparse? Silently ask yourself questions about the room to deepen the visualization. Reflect on what is important to you and how you developed your room of love.
Print out or draw an outline of a person (you can easily find one online). Using markers or any other writing utensil, decorate this outline with descriptors of who you are and what makes you special. This activity focuses on celebrating your positive attributes. Some examples include a big heart, feet that run to do chesed, or catcher’s mitts for hands symbolizing that you catch onto ideas quickly.
Be as creative as you want! Remember, this is meant to be a fun activity, so don’t stress over what your project looks like.
Perform an act of kindness. Whether you choose to be kind to yourself or another, consciously choose to act kindly!
Call someone who is important to you and tell him or her that he/she matters. This night’s activity focuses on deepening meaningful relationships by expressing our appreciation for the individual.
Set a goal. Choose one thing you hope to accomplish by next Chanukah, then write out a plan to achieve your objective. This plan will be more than one sentence because goals always involve hard work. We cannot control the outcome of our efforts, but we can carry out actionable steps to increase the likelihood of our desired result. Therefore, you may want to include “by-when dates” for various tasks to help set a timeline for your plan and help you take initiative.
Accept the challenge! Happy Chanukah!
Miriam Rollhaus, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice. She can be reached at 347-688-2165.