Has the true essence of Christmas been abducted?

By September, the high-street stores are replacing their barbeques, garden furniture, summer dresses and beach wear with scary masks and life-size Dracula figures. That’s when we know summer is well and truly over and Christmas is just around the corner. The increasingly popular Halloween event fills the gap perfectly, but by the 1st of November, the retailers will have swiftly wiped their shelves clean of the plastic creepy crawlers and macarbre dressing-up outfits. Any spooky Halloween left-overs thrown promptly into 50% off buckets to clear. It’s now time to entice the shoppers to tick off their Christmas shopping list. Festive baubles, fairy lights, toys for the kids, Christmas table-ware and santa jumpers adorn the seasonal supermarket sections. Has the true essence of Christmas been abducted?

Once our planes touch down from the summer holidays, the adverts begin. Expensive perfumes, designer handbags, classy jewellery and the latest in technology, tease, tempt and tickle our tastebuds. All marketed to be the ideal Christmas gifts for a loved one. Media campaigns promote solutions for a perfect Christmas. New swish sofas to impress the in-laws on Boxing day, the most up to date television for yule-tide films and a fully fitted designer kitchen giving the right Christmas dinner ambience. But there’s no such thing as perfect. No matter how hi-tech or sophisticated the new oven may be, it will not stop the Christmas dinner burning, if you’re distracted for a while. Neither will the plush three piece suite stop the in-laws complaining about your lack of visits over the past year.

Black Friday imported from America and usually taking place in November seems to have stretched into a whole week. And no sooner have we washed and dried our dishes from the Christmas Day meal, Boxing Day will launch the January sales. The traditional family Boxing Day walk hijacked by the lure of materialistic bargains. As if we haven’t spent more than enough, we are being seduced into  using our plastic once more?

We have become a nation of consumerists.

A throw-away society! Continually persuaded by media advertisers never to be happy with who we are, or what we have.  Clever marketing encourages us to think that improvements to status, appearance and materialistic wealth will enhance our happiness. Not only the biggest humanitarian misconception of all, but also creating mental health issues, low self-esteem, greed and  extremely high levels of personal debt. At the same time, this throw-away mentality is causing serious harm to our environment.

On Sunday afternoons, crowds will pack the huge indoor shopping arenas, while parks and beautiful countryside scenic views stand almost empty. Nature, which generally gives free access and has enourmous health benefits, we largely poo-poo for the cleverly constructed shopping villages. Okay, so the Meadowhalls, Trafford centres and Lakesides have restaurants, cinemas and other appetizers, but this is merely encouraging us to stay longer and spend, spend, spend.

January can be a difficult month for numerous reasons. The weather forecast is bleak, we will probably break New Year’s resolutions and we have bigger wasitlines from our Christmas over-indulgence. Personal debt though, supersedes all these minor irritations, and can seriously damage our health.

I suffered wth mental health issues for over thirty years, which ultimately triggered a shopping addiction.

And just like any other addiction – drugs, gambling, alcoholism, food, work – it started to encroach on other areas of my life. Finally, in 2010, I was left with £50,000 worth of debt and almost nothing to my name. Being in debt is a living nightmare, it’s not just a financial problem! People lose their homes, just like I did, people take their lives, just like I tried to in 2011, families are torn apart and relationships break down. Many borrowers are only able to make the monthly minimum payments. It’s not difficult to see why severe debt can cripple lives.

Recovering from any addiction isn’t easy, but here are a few tips that helped me transform my life…

  • Value experiences, rather than hoarding possessions.
  • Step away from routine and habits that tend to dull your senses. Try a new experience.
  • The act of giving is far more rewarding than receiving. Spend some of your spare time helping others.
  • Trust in your own capabilities. We sustain companies that are dependent on societies weaknesses and yet healthy lifestyles can generally be achieved without cost
  • Connect with nature. Being among nature is one place I can guarantee anyone can heal, learn to be mindful and live in the present moment.
  • Embrace and nurture your own creative talent(s).

If you are in serious debt, please contact one of the debt charities, such as Step Change.