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  • Gail Wong

reframes for lunar new year

(and other major holidays)

In the year of the Dragon, I extend my heartfelt wishes for peace and wholeness to you and your loved ones throughout the festivities and the entire 12 moon cycle.

I offer these sentiments recognising that holiday seasons - despite their blessings and joys - can be challenging for some. I have always had mixed feelings about Chinese New Year and - with the benefit of trauma-informed training and upgrading mastery of my nervous system - I approached the Dragon year with a commitment to experience it more authentically and generatively.

So rather than merely expressing conventional hopes for health, wisdom, wealth, success, and growth, my wish for peace and wholeness is part of how I'm redefining what Chinese New Year can be for us. I present:

the CNY Reframe:

an offering designed to support introverted, highly-sensitive, people-pleasing, AD(H)D, or emotionally-dysregulated individuals living in urban, developed economies.

Below, I elaborate on these 4 reframes, and offer some strategies to implement them - for greater joy, connection and rejuvenation over the holidays.


Noise may come from:

  1. External sources, such as bustling crowds, constant chatter, exuberant Lo Hei celebrations, and traditional activities like lion/dragon dances and firecrackers ingrained in Lunar New Year folklore.

  2. Internal dialogues triggered by interactions, like pondering why a relative recurrently boasts about their clever son.

For those with limited tolerance for such heightened stimulation (myself included), establish an ironclad practice to cultivate inner peace on the days filled with consecutive visits or big parties:

  1. Incorporate an additional midday meditation, possibly during commutes.

  2. Take a 5-minute break to immerse yourself in the present, ideally in a natural setting. Quietly communing with a potted plant can bring wonders.

  3. Moments of silence rest our ears and minds.

  4. Create opportunities throughout the day to listen to your authentic self and connect to its wisdom.


In many Asian cultures, it's customary for elder family members to extensively comment on the achievements, appearance, possessions, and job titles of the younger generation. (Some view this as a form of expressing love! 🤷🏻‍♀️)

That engenders an unfortunate culture of looking good and demonstrating "progress" - oft cast in economic terms. Comparisons and judgments then, are a natural byproduct.

At times, we self-impose these comparisons due to a lifetime of imposter syndrome or people-pleasing tendencies. Questions like "XYZ is thriving - just got promoted this year and had a baby! What about you?" make me shrink inside.

Alternatively, seemingly well-intentioned compliments suggest a backhanded insult (e.g., "Wow, you've really slimmed down!").

It is polite to make conversation with the relatives you only see once a year. You may also encounter the self-absorbed showboat who dominates conversations with humble (or overt) bragging until you concede their superiority.

Regardless of the source or circumstance, comparison is the thief of joy!

I recommend employing both defensive and offensive strategies to break free from this trap:

  1. Defensive strategies serve as survival techniques, minimising the impact to your nervous system.

    1. Boundaries

      1. Remember that you don't need anyone's approval to take up space and be yourself.

      2. You absolutely have the right to enforce your boundaries and limit exposure to toxic auras. Decline to feed the toxic monster with a smile and polite exit.

    2. Anchoring your sense of inherent self-worth

      1. There are many ways to connect to what really matters to you, which lends incredible perspective under duress. What works for you? I have a daily practice of affirmations that I listen to or read aloud that directs my attention and energy. (If you're curious how this works, read to the end for a little gift!)

      2. At every gathering, spend time first with those you feel good being with, before making your way around the room. It will relax your nervous sytem and bolster your confidence.

  2. Offensive strategies empower you to shape the conversation's outcome, when you have the capacity to do so.

    1. Curiosity

      1. It helps me to remind myself that human beings are whole and complex - there is always something interesting to discover in both the reticent and the arrogant.

      2. Rather than suffer through awkward small talk while watching the seconds tick b... unlock a deeper connection with meaningful questions and curiosity, such as "What has been your biggest learning/ area of growth since we last met?"

    2. Self-love Actively choose to BE someone who loves yourself, and who makes others feel good about themselves. Wholeheartedly celebrate their victories and reciprocate by acknowledging yourself in equal measure. It is a beautiful and generative exchange of energy when both parties come away feeling seen and sharing themselves authentically.

    3. Service If you have it in yourself, bring a spirit of service to every interaction. What do you want to leave others with? Is there a message, a call to action, an inspirational story you can share?

In short:

③ EMBRACE REST, choose less

The customary 4 word greetings we exchange revolve around calling in good things, usually in excess and material.

I have started to question - what values does this highlight to my children?

In the current age of boundless consumerism, plentiful dopamine hits, and planetary limits, is it still in our collective interests to celebrate accumulating MORE food, possessions, money, beauty, status, power over others?

Don't misunderstand me - we can never have enough of health, wisdom, and energy. Let's also invoke love, kindness, compassion, and integrity, while we're at it? (Perhaps someone proficient in Mandarin can contribute phrases in this vein!)

The default cultural expectation of upward mobility carries a pale underbelly of shame. There is an unspoken obligation for the next generation to do better than the last - heavily defined in economic terms. A common confession I hear is,

Without a sense of scarcity, I fear I wouldn't achieve anything. Wouldn't contentment make me a bad/lazy/lesser person?

Such chronically fear-based motivation is a form of spiritual enslavement, so widespread at unhealthy levels - limited in efficacy and taxing our nervous and immune systems.

Instead of roving restlessly for the next rung of achievement, I think the world would be content, at peace and yes, better off in the aggregate, if we strove to embrace Rest and want Less for ourselves.

Admittedly, easier said than done. The revolution of rest involves

  • confronting ingrained machinery and mindsets,

  • unlearning habits of overworking and poor sleep, and

  • unraveling the shame and restlessness associated with being un-busy that handicaps our ability to properly rest.

Hectic days of visiting call for a day (or more!) of recovery and rest. I’ll be going outdoors, painting and filling my spiritual and physical tank of resources before returning to work.

④ nourish intentionally, REJECT TOXIC GLUTTONY

This sentiment requires little clarification for those in their middle-age. For more than four decades, the pinnacle of Chinese New Year enjoyment involved indulging in enthusiastic gluttony, savouring a plethora of rich and diverse auspicious delicacies and seasonal snacks.

Slowing metabolism, clogged "pipes" and a flattening weight-loss trajectory makes that aspiration less and less alluring with each passing year. Food coma dulls one's blackjack instincts and conversational vivacity, while hangovers rob me of a whole day and night.

If the intention is to wish well and be well, then it’s time to reframe the YOLO approach to holiday festivities - the dietary choices, at least. Be intentional with what you put into your temple, and choose what your Future Self will appreciate. It wouldn't hurt to engage in movement, break a sweat, and stimulate your lymphatic system!

Affirmations for the holidayS

To close, let me leave you with this:

May you have peace and be whole and present in every moment.

May you deepen your understanding of others and feel seen and appreciated in your own skin.

May you receive gladly and richly and reciprocate generously.

May your self-worth be independent of your bank account (or labels, titles or possessions).

May your sense of what's important, and aliveness, be untainted by economic prosperity.

May you be well, nourished by wholesome food, laughter and fulfilment in balanced measure.

May your consciences and wallets be full, and hearts fuller.

You can find an audio/ video of this here.


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