The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 17, 2018 at 7:04 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 17Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


This is it! Monday again and the beginning of the last full week before Christmas. Still so much to do/buy/achieve? Consequently ‘Monday blues’ might be greatly multiplied this particular week. We are all subject to such reactions and stresses. Everyone is in the same boat… more or less. (An unfortunate number of people might feel that they have completely fallen out of the boat and are thrashing around in choppy, inhospitable waters.) But this is the very time that you need to take action to combat the strain of getting it right… doing your best… not letting everyone else down – both for yourself and others around you.

So today, I want you to make people laugh – or at least bring a smile to their faces. Tell a joke (even if it makes the listener groan… it’s an inverted form of laughter), try a little gentle teasing, act the clown… do a silly walk or dance, cross your eyes or pull funny faces (so long as the wind doesn’t change and they stick like that!). Surprise people – even shock them a little – that will also help to loosen their reserve and bring the reaction of laughter to the surface.

Break the tension. Everyone and everything gets so serious and intense, especially at this highly emotionally charged time of year. Just make one person smile and then feel how the whole atmosphere around both of you changes. How do you feel now? Do you also feel different… better… more relaxed… lighter of heart? It’s be a win/win situation.

If you are staying in at home today, or work on your own, pick up the phone and give someone a call and bring a smile to their lips… a chuckle in their throats… a grin to their face… a belly laugh to the world.

Remember that laughter is also very beneficial – it promotes good health. It lowers blood sugar levels, boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins – the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Physically it also tones muscles, improves respiration and circulation. Emotionally it unleashes inhibitions, and lowers barriers generating better communication and team building and encourages positive thinking. What an amazing cocktail of wonderful benefits!

Yes, people might think that you have suddenly taken leave of your senses. The down side is that some people prefer to wilfully remain miserable and can grow increasingly cross the more you try to jolly them along. If you come across someone like that, don’t upset them even more, leave them to it. There are plenty more to crack a joke with!

Happy Monday everyone – at this very darkest time of the year go and spread a little metaphorical sunshine!

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 16, 2018 at 8:39 am

Alternative Advent calendar 16Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Give someone the unexpected pleasure of a Christmas stocking.

As children, many of us – if we were lucky – have known the excitement of finding a bulging, knobbly stocking at the bottom of our bed on Christmas morning. The joy of lying in the dark, tentatively prodding, poking and investigating all the tantalisingly anonymous shapes and anticipating just what they might be could be almost more satisfying than unpacking it all!

Why not bring a measure of that same excitement and – in this case – unlooked-for pleasure and anticipation into the life of an adult this year? Perhaps an elderly relative or neighbour… or as an alternative Christmas gift for a work colleague or friend… or the harassed lass working flat out on the checkout at your local shop or supermarket… or the homeless person sitting in the street? If you wish to avoid possible embarrassment you may wish to contrive to give your stocking anonymously.

Yes, it does take just a little time and thought but no, it doesn’t have to involve much financial outlay – in fact it is better if doesn’t because your actual gift is surprise, anticipation and a return to uncomplicated childhood rather than one of adult expense and glitz.

Start off by buying a pair of socks – ordinary socks or slipper socks – one of which will be used to hold everything else and the other one which you can roll up and stuff into the toe of your ‘Christmas stocking’ so that the pair may be worn normally after Christmas. Of course, the rest of the contents may be as varied as you could possibly wish, but try and stick to useful and inexpensive with a dash of indulgence, so you might include things like a pen and notebook, a comb, nice soap, a bar of chocolate or a little bag of sweets… just simple, useful, everyday sort of items. Wrap each individual item and of course, don’t forget to add the traditional absolute prerequisites of an apple, clementine or orange and a few chocolate (or real) coins into the foot of the stocking along with its rolled up mate.

This form of presentation, (and consequent constriction on size), can be adapted to form a very special gift for someone close to you – perhaps the significant ‘other’ in your life. Then you can allow your imagination to take flight and be as imaginative and lavish as you you want!

But for now, just stick to cheap and cheerful… and that all important element of surprise at being given what is , ostensibly, a child’s gift, but with an adult interpretation. After all, why should children have all the fun?

Having said that, planning a Christmas stocking for some unsuspecting grown-up can provide just as much pleasure for the giver as the recipient.

Happy days to all you would-be Father Christmases!


The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 15, 2018 at 7:30 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 15Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


This morning I awoke to frost silvering the grass, a clear cold sky and the stark outline of the Nantlle Ridge coal black against the paling dawn. Beautiful! What one thinks of as typical winter weather, and so it is, but winter weather isn’t always easy or pleasant for the wildlife trying to exist outside in it.

Take the bird population for instance. many of our best-loved species are under threat… from loss of habitat, pesticides and the change in weather patterns. Spare them a thought…. and more than a thought… do something to help them.

If you are going out shopping today, you might like to buy an extra gift… a gift for the birds outside your home. Wherever you live, whether it is in the middle of a city or out in suburbia, by the sea or in the countryside, there will be birds living around or not very far from you… large or small… they all need to eat. Some types of bird are required to consume their own weight in food each day just to survive.

So why not buy a bag of mixed bird seed (which will appeal to more than one type of feathered friend), or some fat balls, or nuts? (Recipe for making your own fat cakes if you prefer: I have a family of blackbirds who are addicted to white bread and (unfortunately) my holly berries! Don’t forget that birds also need a source of water and when the weather is cold and dry or frosty and frozen they can suffer great hardship through dehydration so place one or two flat bowls or plates of water out for them and if the weather is freezing, refresh the water in them a couple of times a day. Also remember that predatory cats may be around so try to place your edible offerings in a safe spot; somewhere the birds will be able to easily see the approach of a predatory animal and fly away safely in good time.

Thinking of the approaching Winter Solstice next week, you might wish to get up a Midwinter feast for your wild birds, to help mark the occasion but it is more important to provide a moderate amount of food constantly through the leanest months than have a glut and dearth.

Think about it – see what you can do – even if it is only a very little, give it to the natural world with love and gratitude… and watch the marvellous display that your gift will attract!


The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 14, 2018 at 7:26 am

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


We all do it. Accidentally drop something… stub our toe… forget something… and then we make snide comments to our self, usually referring to our self but also about others. In doing so, the mood of the day changes. The peace or upbeat feeling of the day is shattered, the atmosphere becomes charged with something more unpleasant, and after that it is all too easy to become  irritated and continue to make increasingly impatient and wounding little comments – aloud or inside one’s head – until someone else enters the room and it can ignite into a full-blown row.

So nip it in the bud. Listen to yourself. Diffuse a potential situation before it can develop. Next time you catch yourself telling yourself off, stop and grin at yourself. We are just human. Fallible. We all make mistakes… we all do daft things… it’s part of living. But we can turn it all around… smile or laugh and shrug it off. Have you noticed how impossible it is to go on feeling cross if your facial features are smiling? Try it now. Something communicates from the physical to the emotional and can change our mood. So stop the rot in it’s tracks and generate a lighter feeling to your day.

Therefore the Advent challenge for today is to demonstrate a good temper. It is one of the best gifts that we can give to those around us, especially at this time of year when everyone is getting over excited, over tired and over stressed.

Smile when you feel grumpy. Say something kind when you feel irritated. Give someone a hug when you feel cross. Watch how differently everyone around you responds and how much better, lighter, positive your day becomes, and sense how differently you yourself feelAlternative Advent Calendar 14.

Smiles and hugs to you all!

(Now I have just inserted the Advent Door illustration in the wrong place… but for once I am going to leave it there… and I am smiling… go on, have a chuckle with me!)

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 13, 2018 at 8:30 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 13Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Beginning to feel the pressure now? Things still to do mounting up and time growing short? Getting tired and inclined to be tetchy? Then just stop for a minute. Take time to consider just how lucky you are. Yes, I said lucky. Because no matter how much work you have to do, how much preparation for the Winter holiday, how many sticky situations with recalcitrant relatives you may be facing or how great the financial short-fall in your bank balance, there is still a great deal going for your life, here, now, this minute.

Think about it. What have you to feel grateful for? Look around you. No matter how you feel, you probably have a certain degree of health and ability to achieve something good this Midwinter. And if you don’t have any relatives to share it with, then at least you don’t have to worry about awkward family members or someone causing a row. You have warm clothes on your back, a roof over your head, something to eat today… the list goes on and can become far more refined.

So for today I challenge you to think of ten things that you are truly grateful for. Write them down if you can and when you are feeling downhearted take a look at your list and focus on all the good things in your life instead. If you can, put your list up somewhere you will see it as you go about your daily tasks.

Blessings – not of abundance – but of having enough.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 12, 2018 at 8:17 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 12Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Phone or message a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while.

You know the ones! The dear friend you are constantly making notes for in your head… oooh, she’d love to hear that… ooooh, he’d be so amused to know…. Often the people we feel closest to are the ones who get ignored because we feel close enough to leave them till last while we attend to all the other pressing ‘have to’s.

And then there is the opposite end of the scale – all the people who you genuinely enjoy receiving a Christmas card from but suddenly remember that you haven’t contacted for months – or sometimes years.

So pick up your phone… now, this minute… make that call… connect with those who really mean something to you and let them know just how much you care.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 11, 2018 at 8:15 am

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!

Alt. Advent Cal. no. 11


Speak kindly to a bird or animal – wild or domesticated.

It is good to remember the natural world. Our thoughts and spoken words transmute into energetic intention becoming tangible and do reach their target. Even if you don’t come across an animal in the fur or a bird in the feather today, think kind thoughts of loving appreciation about one particular living creature. Even better if you do see something in the natural world to pass your good wishes on to – even a little sparrow up in your guttering, or a late and weary  bumble bee is deserving of our loving attention. Anything and everything.

Happy days!

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 9, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Advent door 10Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Wherever you are, stop what you are doing for a couple of minutes and take a look around you. Really look around you. It doesn’t matter if you are just pottering along doing repetitive, mundane chores.

What do you see?

How do you feel about where you currently are?
Is it a nice place? Does it make you feel whole, happy, fulfilled, festive and positive?
Or does it leave you feeling down, depleted, overwhelmed, sad or negative?

What can you do to magnify the positive  aspects and what can you do to eliminate or decrease the negative effects?

Blessings to you all.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 8, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Alt. Advent Cal. no.9Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Give Christmas hugs to everyone.

This is actually one of the nicest and most beneficial things that you can do for another person.

To be gently and tenderly held by another, heart to heart, is both emotionally relaxing and very supportive. But more than that, a hug lasting twenty seconds or more stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn acts as a tonic for our circulatory system, lowers blood pressure, reduces the physical effects of stress and a dozen other wonderful things.

So, go on, give someone an early Christmas present today – something of real benefit to them…. give them a hug.

The Alternative Advent Calender

  • Posted on December 7, 2018 at 11:19 pm

Alt. Advent Cal. No. 8Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Leave a message of loving kindness in a public place for someone else to find.

A lot of people will be feeling pre-Christmas stress really starting to intensify now. For some it will be not having enough time or energy to do all that they would like to make Christmas for their loved ones. For others it will be not having a clue how they are going to divide their time over the holiday period so that all their family and in-laws see enough of them. For others it will be agonising over the cost of the festive period. Whilst for some, it will be facing the Midwinter celebrations alone, or at least without their beloved. And so it goes…

If you are going out to the shops today, take a look around you. You simply cannot tell just by looking at people’s faces what is going on beneath the surface. So before you go, tear a piece of paper from a notebook, write a kind message on it, fold it a couple of times so it is small – but not too small – and take it with you. When you find somewhere you think someone will find it, leave it there… how about propped by the condiments in a cafe, or tucked between the packets of biscuits in the supermarket, or down the back of a seat on the bus? Somewhere it won’t be ignored but won’t attract too much attention. I’m sure that you can spot lots of good places.

You simple words might make ALL the difference to someone today… might just tip the balance between them coping, making a success of something, or giving up. There is the old saying about ‘casting your bread upon the water’ – you never know where it will end up, who it might feed… or when it might find its way back to you in your time of need.

Good luck!