“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel… I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.” —Charlie Brown in, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
While it’s commonly referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” the holiday season is, for many people, not so great.
The holidays are meant to be sources of joy, right? But do you end up feeling more like the Grinch? Are you accused of being a Scrooge?
Use these 5 tools to rediscover the joy of the holidays!
1. Practice Gratitude
Did you know that practicing gratitude causes real changes in your brain that enhance brain function and make you feel better?
When you bring your attention to the things you are grateful for in your life, your brain actually works better. Research has demonstrated that people who express gratitude on a regular basis are healthier, more optimistic, make more progress toward their goals, have a greater sense of well-being, and are more helpful to others.
Here is an exercise: every day, write out at least five things for which you are grateful. The act of writing helps to solidify them in your brain. Then experience the joy that gratitude can bring.
2. Give Yourself A Break
Experts say that the holidays can make people feel out of control—at the mercy of tradition or expectations. But you DO have a say. The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you. Say “no” to events and activities that aren’t important to you.
Be conscious about what you do, how you spend your time and energy. Don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you’ve always done them. If what you’re doing isn’t making you happy and is causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different.
3. Be Honest With Yourself
Figure out what REALLY brings you peace and joy – not what you think you should love or what you think should bring you joy. If you truly enjoy sending holiday cards, go for it! If you’re not much of a partygoer, saying no to the fifth one this week means saying yes to more time to do the things that really bring you happiness.
The holidays are usually a time when everyone is focused on their families and friends. However, it’s also a wonderful time to focus on giving to others in need. Research shows that volunteering not only alleviates stress but also increases health and happiness. Helping others is a fantastic way to help yourself. It can bring you a lot of joy to know you’re making a difference!
Shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway, donate clothes to a battered women’s shelter, work a few shifts at the local food bank, sponsor a wild animal through wildlife rescue, or donate a few gifts to a charity for children and families.
5. Be Mindful Of Your Language
Be mindful and conscious of how you talk to yourself and others and watch how your mood improves! Thoughts can make your mind and body feel good or they can make you feel bad.
You can train your thoughts to be positive and hopeful or you can just allow them to be negative and upset you. You can choose to think good thoughts and feel good, or you can choose to think bad thoughts and feel lousy. That’s right, it’s up to you.
Research has shown that it’s impossible to be fearful and appreciative at the same time, so the next time you find yourself in a negative tirade to yourself or someone else, take a breath, shift your thoughts to what you are grateful for and the people you appreciate in your life and let your body and mind feel the peace and joy of the holiday season.