The holidays can be hard on many of us, no matter our age.
As the years go by, there are a lot of reasons we can slip into being sad or lonely or depressed when the days get shorter and the temps start dipping.
Fewer social opportunities might be an issue. Grief over loss of loved ones can certainly be more acute when holidays remind us of treasured memories that are gone. Real or perceived expectations of others can weigh on us. Wishing we could have more, do more, share more can certainly rob us of joy.
So, what can we do to make the holidays happier?
It takes a bit of focus on self. By exploring, considering, pondering our own mindset, it is possible to avoid some of the worst parts of holiday malaise. Here are 6 ways to help you have a happier holiday season.
I saw a meme the day after Thanksgiving that commented on the irony of Americans going out searching for sales the first day after spending a whole day being thankful for what they have. Clever. And true. And worth pondering.
Much has been written about the benefits of gratitude. Gratitude is said to be powerful, life changing, able to make us happier and healthier. And, I believe it.
Like any discipline, learning to be grateful is not always easy. It takes practice. But as gratitude becomes a consistent way of thinking, we won’t constantly feel sorry for ourselves, and our days just may become brighter.
Through the years, many have commented on the power of gratitude.
Oprah offers a ‘gratitude journal,’ Charles Dickens said, “Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not your misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Even Willie Nelson is quoted as saying, “When I started counting my blessings, my entire life turned around.”
Often, we don’t really think about the things that can make us happy. The result is that not much makes us happy.
This holiday season, we are building a new home, 35 miles from where we currently live. My husband is the general contractor, which means he is almost always there, whether in his mind or his body.
This morning I said to him, “This week, I need to see you and talk about something other than light switch locations or window sizes.”
I gave him options: buy a living Christmas tree that we can plant at the new home or walk downtown for a meal, taking advantage of the unseasonal weather.
I had to think about what will satisfy me. Otherwise, I know that I will begin to be annoyed that he leaves early and comes in late and has one main topic of conversation. I know that he wants me to be happy and satisfied, so I had to consider what that would be, to help him out.
Giving is a blessing, to ourselves and to others. Giving more, however, doesn’t mean bigger gifts or more toys or additional sweaters!
It means giving more of your time (at a soup kitchen or crisis nursery), more of your thoughts (hand written notes), even monetary gifts to a charity that you value.
If you don’t have family around to appreciate your special cookies, make some to give to the neighbors. If you know a single mom who might appreciate a few hours of shopping without little ones running every which way, offer her a few hours of your time.
In the stress and hurry of the holidays, a sincere smile and a “thank you” is a gift easily given and just might make someone’s day.
Start New Traditions
Life changes. It is inevitable. Some holiday traditions can be adapted to newer and/or younger family members or friends or passed along as gifts – Grandma’s nativity set, Auntie’s menorah, the holiday table cloth – to be enjoyed by others.
However, there is also the possibility of starting new traditions that will be special to you. Downsized enough that a tree is not reasonable? We started hanging our favorite decorations on a very healthy jade plant we have.
Family not close? Host a neighborhood open house. A 20-pound turkey too much? How about Cornish hens?
Pretty soon, you can find yourself looking forward to your new traditions while remembering with a smile your old ones.
Get Out and Get Moving
I, for one, am not really a fan of cold weather. Once it dips down to the 30s, my daily walks space out to ‘rarely.’ I have to find another way to get moving and then plan it in. The elliptical at the YMCA is a fine alternative… but it takes a different process to get there.
Though it is tempting to stay snuggled up inside, I know that moving will get my blood flowing and will make my smile come more readily and my moving smoother.
There are plenty of reasons to keep moving all year long, not just during the holidays. Try some of my 11 ways to keep moving when you hate to exercise!
Share Your Stories
I guarantee that there are people around you who would love to hear your stories. My mother died at 94, and in the last years of her life, I asked her a lot of questions about her life and her marriage. The other day, I thought of something I wish I knew about her.
If you are alone during the holidays more than you would like, take that as an opportunity to write down some of your stories. You can buy journals that prompt memories if you need help getting started.
If you are a natural writer, just buy a new journal and begin to write things down about the holidays that you remember. If you are not a writer, find an easy way to record your voice, telling your stories.
Have some friends to your home or your room and suggest a story that each can tell. “What is your best holiday memory?” “What do you remember your mother baking during the holidays” “Where did you spend your best family holiday?’
Tell your stories. Share them. Invite others to share theirs. Make new memories from sharing old one.
By practicing gratitude, defining satisfaction, giving more, starting new traditions, getting moving and sharing your stories, you can turn a tendency towards sadness into a season of joy.
By being intentional about fostering a positive mindset, we can change our lives, and we’ll most likely bless the people around us.
How do you fight holiday sadness? What do you do to help others fight the holiday blues? What new traditions have you started that you enjoy? Please join the conversation below.