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Living with Chronic Illness? A New Christmas Tree Mindset Approach Helps to Age Well Regardless

By Verla Fortier December 12, 2018 Mindset

Have your Christmas tree traditions changed over the years? Many of my friends have opted for artificial trees for ease and cost. This, at first, does make sense since they use the artificial trees year after year.

My friends also say they are saving a real tree by going artificial. This makes sense too – or does it?

I Confess I Don’t Like Christmas – in General

This is my second Christmas since my systemic lupus diagnosis. Last Christmas I went to London, England, to be with my boys. It was different and beautiful. They did all the work.

This year, I am hosting Christmas, as usual, in our family home in the country. It sounds and looks idyllic. The problem is: I dread it.

Inadequate at Christmas

I don’t like Christmas. I am inadequate most of the time, and I don’t like shopping – so, I gave it up.

I can no longer join in a Christmas drink. I love a glass of wine, but I’m not so keen on losing the next day to nausea and fatigue. It is not worth it anymore.

I love to prepare the traditional Christmas dinner – but half way through, I give up and have a nap. The rest of the preparation time is a fog. I pray I won’t burn anything.

At Christmas time, my emotions with my sisters (also aging with chronic diseases) run too high. Our reserves are running low. We all need support.

I feel the loss when I can’t stay up late with my sisters. I hear their laughter from my bed and know I am missing out.

Noticing Absent Loves at Christmas Time

Those of us who are aging know loss, and Christmas always brings those losses home to us. Many of us miss loved ones who have died. This will be my sister’s first Christmas at our family home since she lost her husband to ALS.

We miss loved ones far away. Among us three aging sisters, none of our children will make it to our family home this Christmas.

We notice absent loves. Aging and chronic disease magnifies our losses.

We need all the help we can get to have moments of joy this Christmas. We need to open to all resources.

Enter the Real Christmas Tree!

Who knew a live Christmas tree could help make us happier and give us more energy? Well, the research is solid on that account. Not only on Christmas trees either, but on trees in general.

What is the difference? A tree is a tree – outside or in. This is one time of year that we don’t have to go outside to get the health benefits of tree air compounds. We have the opportunity to sit beside a well of health and happiness in our living rooms.

Christmas Tree Air Makes Us Happier

Each tree matters to our health and happiness. Tree air compounds take away our stress by lowering our cortisol levels. Tree air also helps us make room for moments of joy and happiness. All we need to do is spend time near trees.

Christmas, of all seasons, makes it easier for us to breathe in peace and joy – right in our own living rooms. There is something in the tree air compounds that lifts our moods – that give us energy.

Christmas Tree Air Is Pure Medicine

That fragrance that fills your home is more than a lovely scent.

A tree inside the house is pure medicine. No question. Research shows that each tree matters and the air around trees is a natural pharmacy.

Christmas tree varieties are especially beneficial. Spruce, pine, and balsam provide health giving compounds.

Real Christmas trees provide home delivery of these miracle aerosols. All we have to do is be near the tree and breathe to get the health and happiness benefits.

So, Buy That Live Christmas Tree!

What is the best way to get those tree compounds? Buy a real tree. Don’t chop it down in the woods because you are not replacing it like tree farms do. Tree farms replace chopped trees at a rate of one cut tree to three seedlings.

Buy from any of your local stores or better still, a local tree farm if you have one near you.

Feel great about supporting a business that is using land to grow trees. Those trees grow and, for six to twelve years, give off healthy aerosols and slow climate change.

We want tree farms. We need tree farms. Trees slow climate change.

A New Christmas Tree Mindset

I plan to use my real Christmas tree to move me to a new mindset this Christmas.

Whenever I remember, I will spend time close to it. I will deep breathe around it. I will do this while others share a drink. I will “drink in the wild tree air” as Thoreau invited us to do decades ago.

I will buy a tree knowing it is from a tree farm.

I am going to adopt that mindset of uncertainty that Stanford’s Ellen Langer, PhD, talks about when she tells us to notice new things. And she also says not to assume we know something and exactly how it will turn out.

I plan to question my fixed assumptions: How do I know I will hate Christmas this year? This year, what can I notice that is new in old traditions? What can I notice about my real Christmas tree that I have not noticed in the past? Can aging with chronic disease provide new opportunities for me?

I am expecting the unexpected.

What do you know about the goodness in tree air compounds? Where do you get your Christmas tree? Is there something new you can notice in your old traditions? Do you see new opportunities in aging or having chronic disease at Christmas time? Let’s have a conversation.

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The Author

Verla Fortier, a retired professor of nursing, manages her lupus erythematosus by living and playing outside in Pine Falls, Manitoba, Canada, on the edge of the boreal forest. For free evidence-based green space health tips visit her website

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