The holiday season often causes those of us with chronic pain to suffer severe flare ups from all the activities. Besides using direct techniques to deal with our pain like prevention through pacing ourselves, taking more medication, applying heat/ice, and other physical treatments, there is another way I like to manage my pain: Distraction.
Distraction works because “your brain can only focus its attention in so many areas at one time. Pain sensations compete for attention with all of the other things going on around you. Just how much attention your brain gives each thing depends on a number of factors, including how long you have been hurting and your current mood.” (text from HERE)
Distraction techniques include such things as visualization and listening to music. I like to use television shows and movies - particularly classic old films! - to distract from pain. At this time of the year, there are some really great ones to choose from. Since I love old movies so much I thought I would share some of my top holiday choices with you.
These films don’t have fancy visual effects, sex scenes, car chases, incessant swearing, extreme violence or any of the other things most modern films seem to feel are necessary. They rely on deeper emotions, explore the bonds of family, embrace spirituality and generosity, and most of all don’t shy away from love in its purest and most innocent forms. These movies really grab my attention and truly distract me from pain - so I’m sure they will work for you, too. Plus, you’ll be entertained by some of the best actors and actresses and come away with a warm happy mood. Some of the films are completely centered around Christmas (like Miracle on 34th Street) but a couple I’m including aren’t holiday movies per se but do have important Christmas scenes. I just can’t leave them out!
I’m going to start with the movies I most highly recommend, followed by a few I haven’t yet seen but plan to catch based on friends’ recommendations, and I’ll end with the classic ones that everybody loves!
~* HIGHEST RECOMMENDATIONS *~
THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1948) - Drama
This is my favorite holiday film! David Niven is the bishop, who is obsessed with building a cathedral and asks God for help. Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) arrives to give him aid, but what exactly does he really need help with? The Bishop’s wife, played by Loretta Young, is being neglected by her husband who is more focused on ego and status than love and family. Dudley becomes close friends with the wife, making the bishop jealous. The bishop worries the angel has been sent to replace him, and he realizes that love is the greatest of God’s gifts and family is worth any sacrifice. This is truly a film not to miss during the holidays. My husband and I watched it together last year and I know we’ll watch it again.
MEET JOHN DOE (1941) - Drama
This is an exceptional film, a top favorite of mine regardless of the season. It’s particularly appropriate given the current economic climate in our country. After a feisty newspaper columnist (Barbara Stanwyck) is told she’s fired, she comes up with a scheme: she pens a phony letter claiming to have received it from a man protesting how bad things are in the world and announcing his plans to jump from the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve. She signs the letter "John Doe," and its publication results in an explosion of public interest in the fictitious man. To continue the lie, she hires a hobo (Gary Cooper) to play the role. John Doe becomes a hero to the American public. He falls in love with Barbara but he doesn’t know what he should do. But then he finds out he’s being made a pawn in a sinister political plot. Will he actually fulfill the threat in the fake letter written by “John Doe”? This is such a great film!
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) - Romantic Comedy
Barbara Stanwyck stars as a homemaking specialist who can't even boil water! She lives alone in a New York apartment and cannot cook, but she writes a popular magazine column about a family life on a Connecticut farm as a housewife with a husband and child. When she is forced to provide a family Christmas holiday for a war hero and her boss, she panics. In order to prevent being exposed as a fraud, she agrees to marry a friend and even finds a stand-in baby to complete the lie... but things go wrong and madcap comedy ensues!
James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star as feuding coworkers in a Budapest shop whodon't realize they're secret romantic pen pals. This film was later modernized as “You’ve Got Mail”, but I think “Shop” is a better film with far more skilled actors. There is such great chemistry and wit between them! There are some somber issues which come up, but overall it has great charm and humor.
~* FILMS RECOMMENDED TO ME,
THAT I’LL WATCH THIS YEAR *~
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) - Romantic Comedy
This is a film I haven’t seen but is highly recommended by a friend and I can’t wait to watch it. A young widow is torn between a boring businessman and a romantic ne'er-do-well. Just before Christmas, a department store clerk (Robert Mitchum) meets big spending customer (Janet Leigh), who is really a commercial spy. He unmasks her but lets her go, which gets him fired. They end up on a date, which doesn't sit well with her steady suitor, Carl, but delights her son Timmy, who doesn't want Carl for a step-dad.
An assistant District Attorney (Fred MacMurray) takes a shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck) home with him for Christmas because he doesn’t think he will win the court case against her until after the holiday season. Feeling guilty about her sitting in jail for Christmas, he posts her bail. Through the movie, he learns about her rough life and his feelings begin to change. It’s a movie about second chances and finding love where we don’t expect it.
A Norwegian farmer tries to raise two children in the Midwest. It’s not a typical holiday film (it does have a special Christmas scene) but what is said to be best about it is the depiction of bonding and love within a family. I’m really looking forward to watching it! It stars Edward G. Robinson, Frances Gifford, Agnes Moorehead, and James Craig.
~* THE HOLIDAY CLASSICS *~
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) - Drama
A department store Santa claims to be the real thing, and tries to convince a very practical little girl and her mother that all you have to do is “believe.” This is the best family holiday film of the bunch, in my opinion. It stars Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart, and young Natalie Wood.
Who can go through the holidays without watching this one? A small town man feels his life is so bad that he decides to commit suicide. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel stops him. In order to prove that his life has meaning, the angel shows him what life would have become for the residents of his town if he had never lived. It stars James Stewart and Donna Reed.
You can’t watch this holiday musical without singing along at least once! Former Army buddies (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) put on a show with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to save their old Army commander‘s failing country inn in Vermont. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers work on the show. The musical score is by the amazing Irving Berlin. This film is not high drama, the best script, or the greatest acting. But it’s a warm, feel-good story with fantastic music... and who can resist a bit of crooning from ol’ Bing?
I know there are tons more holiday films which people love to watch, but I can’t possibly list them all. I’d love for you to write a recommendation of your own in the comments below. Please share your favorite classic holiday films with me!