How to survive holiday party season like a Buddhist

party-hacks-jonathan-kos-read For most of the year, I’m as down for a party as the next fun-loving gal. But for some reason—and I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in this—between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there’s nothing that makes me feel more exhausted than the thought of putting on lipstick and heels, searching for the perfect white elephant gift, and making small talk over plastic cups of punch with a sea of casual acquaintances.

So what gives? According to Southern California-based Oriental Medicine Doctor (OMD), Qi Gong master, founder, filmmaker, and author Pedram Shojai, there’s a lot more behind an aversion to holiday socializing than a disdain for lukewarm hors d’oeuvres—and it’s an affliction he’s seeing in an increasing number of his patients.

urban-monk For one thing, he says, the natural rhythm of the seasons—winter being a time when we’re naturally inclined to draw inward—leads us into hibernation mode during the exact time of year we’re expected to be in full social swing.

He also believes that social media (and its knack for facilitating surface-level friendships—sorry, but just because you follow Beyonce on Instagram doesn’t make her your BFF) is to blame for making us feel lonely at times when we’re surrounded by people.

“Our tech has us wrapped into online connections that are safe and distant, and we’re getting more isolated in the flesh and blood,” says Shojai, who addresses this issue (and many more) in his forthcoming book, The Urban Monk. “Superficial contacts stay just that: People don’t understand us, and we’re not putting time into really connecting with others, either.” (And we all know how tiring small talk can be, right?)

But, he says, there are plenty of tricks and techniques that we can use to bypass these landmines and survive—even revel in—the year-end social swirl. Read on for his seven tried-and-tested holiday hacks, and prepare to feel just a little more jolly at your next seasonal soiree. —Erin Magner

1. Show gratitude to your squad.
Many of us think of the holidays as a time to reconnect with absolutely everyone we care about… overwhelming, much? Instead, advises Shojai, focus on nurturing your true inner circle. “You don’t need many friends; just a few people you share a special bond with,” he says. “Call the people you’re thankful for and shower them with appreciation. You needn’t kiss their ass—just ask how they’ve been.” (Notice he says “call”—in this case, a post on their Facebook wall won’t fly.)

2. Don’t say yes to every invitation…
If you’re feeling too tired to party, don’t force yourself to rally in the name of holiday spirit. “Understand that this season is about restoring your energy,” says Shojai. “You needn’t feel guilty about wanting to chill out—that’s what we all should be doing. Hibernate proudly!”

3. But don’t say no too often, either.
Even if a party doesn’t sound that promising, says Shojai. “[Rather than] deflecting and acting like you’ve got other shit going on, get out there and have fun. If it sucks, hang politely and then leave; if it’s good, then you can stay and play. You’ll never know unless you get out there.”

4. Act as if everyone has something to teach you.
Yes, even the strange guy from accounting or the taxi driver who’s taking you the long way home. “If you adopt this attitude, people will become interesting and you’ll help bring out the best in them,” says Shojai. “Instead of talking about yourself, ask questions and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Learn from people at every turn.” And voila—you’ll never have to deal with small talk again.

5. Practice the “Inner Smile Meditation.”
Next time you’re at a party and not feeling it, “Imagine a huge smile in your heart that radiates out on the exhale and fills with love and joy on the inhale. Just practice bathing the room in this warm smile. It’ll make you judge less, love more, put a real smile on your face, and make you much more approachable—and attractive,” promises Shojai. Bonus points if you’re practicing it under the mistletoe.

6. Get charitable.
If the thought of doing karaoke at a holiday happy hour gives you hives, gather your crew and do something for others instead. “Be of service and do so with other people who are of like mind,” he recommends. Besides, the afterglow of giving back is so much better than a mulled wine hangover.

7. Create a New Year’s Eve ritual.
“Instead of stumbling around a party looking for someone you can kiss at midnight, hang with close friends and enjoy a smaller circle,” says Shojai. “Make it about a fresh start by meditating on how the next year is going to look, and then go to bed early so you can get up and watch the sun rise on January 1. This is a great way to herald in a powerful year with intent and focus… versus Advil and 7-Up.”

(Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read)

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