For many people, the holiday season is anything but festive, often representing a time full of stress, painful reflection and a list of goals unmet. Our society has created a bizarre mix of cheer and expectations which has seemingly taken up permanent residence during this time of year, regardless of your beliefs or disposition. While one likely can’t shape society to suit his or herself in one fell swoop, we each can take measures to give ourselves a fighting chance at not only surviving, but perhaps enjoying, the holiday season. But we need the right mindset and expectations.
1. Give gifts if you choose to (or don’t), but be content with this decision. Try to come up with a reasonable list of things to do for others that you can both satisfy and makes you feel good. People generally expect or want much less than we often set ourselves up for and this creates odd results for both sides. Try giving things people wouldn’t get otherwise from anyone else, like a carefully chosen book, homemade photo album, unique food or shared experience. Stuff is overrated but symbols of thinking of someone else is not. Know the difference.
2. Giving thanks isn’t just for Thanksgiving. No matter what is happening to us in our lives we can always look for things we’re grateful for and appreciate them. It takes continuous habit and your own permission to take stock in the parts of your life you feel good about and have gratitude. Give yourself permission to think about these things and enjoy them. It’s easy to see the blemishes on an otherwise beautiful object and we owe it to ourselves to look for the “grander good” in both ourselves and others. Take the time to do this every day–you’ll be a better person for it.
3. Seek out friends and family and invest in the relationships you have with them. Don’t wait for them to call or text–connect with them first, even if you don’t think you have time. You do. And if you have to make a choice, choose people every time. The other stuff can wait–it will be there when you return. People sometimes aren’t and we never realize this until so much time has passed they’ve either moved on or we can’t remember why we haven’t connected with them for awhile. Go have a drink with a friend. Call your family. Text that friend you lost contact with a long time ago but still have them in your contacts. Write a letter or card to someone you care about. The measure of our true worth is ultimately the quality of relationships we have with others. Start today.
4. Fun comes in many ways. Seek out things you enjoy and do them when you can. Go see a movie. Take a night off and watch some shows or read a book or create some art. The malls and shopping and work parties will be there no matter what. Life has enough challenges already; give yourself permission to enjoy things that fill you up.
5. Finally (and this is my own personal bias but based on years of field research), put down your devices and log off your screens each day for time on your own. Get outside and breath fresh air. Walk and talk. Leave the phone in the car or at home. Shut down the computer. Nature revives the soul, stimulates the mind and nourishes the body. Take advantage of it any way you can. There’s no rules for what works but just do it as often as you can. Keeping yourself moving during the year–especially this season–is a huge part of ensuring your own well being. Don’t let anything take this away from you. It’s too important.
The holidays don’t have to be awful–we can fill it up with whatever we choose. Find what works for you and share it with others. Chances are the people around you need a boost, too. You can be the one to give it to them. We will all be better for the effort.