The holiday season is here. We have holiday lights, songs, special hot beverages, sparkling desserts, and images of bright paper wrappings and wishes come true. But, what if you aren’t feeling it? Sometimes our circumstances, our mood, our health, or all of the above make it difficult to get into the holiday spirit. You want to be in that place, but the parties, gift giving, and merriment feel like a movie you’re watching, but not playing a role in. You’re not alone. Research
shows that 62% of us feel more stressed during the holidays.
Even if you are in a good place, the holidays can feel contrived and out of reach. How many of us are getting a luxury vehicle with a big red bow on it from Santa? And does an extravagant gift really bring joy to your life? Likely not, but we tend to go too big when we’re trying to get somewhere. Our expectations turn into big burdens. We think the joy will come by baking dozens of cookies, decorating the house to look like the front cover of a glossy magazine, and finding the biggest and best gifts for everyone. Most of us wind up too tired and deflated to find the joy. The pressure to feel joyful just keeps joy further from your grasp. So, instead of thinking big, think small.
Here are some suggestions for finding little moments of joy during the holiday season:
Start with a smile. It’s not just a silly self-help tip. Smiling really does improve mood. You don’t have to try to find something to smile about, just slightly turn up the corners of your mouth into a smile and see what happens. It’s also contagious (like a yawn), so do it around others and see what happens!
Don’t forget about giving to yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else and are therefore the best pick for giving and receiving. Be your own Secret Santa! It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe you pick up your favorite flowers, gift yourself some down time, or treat yourself to a massage
We tend to get caught up in what we don’t have or what we aren’t doing. Putting our energy towards this just reinforces a negative pattern of thinking. There are many benefits to intentionally practicing gratitude
. Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day and see what happens.
Take time to relax. The trick to this one is you may need to re-learn how to relax. Sounds silly, but it’s true for most of us. Taking time to relax isn’t hopping on social media or reading a book. Those are nice breaks, but what is most helpful is eliciting the relaxation response, which has many health benefits including improving mood and enhancing our ability to cope with the stress of the holidays. Our Mind Body Medicine class teaches you how to elicit the relaxation response. The next class starts January 10th – a perfect time to de-stress after the holidays.
Conscious connection. The idea of connecting with someone during the multiple social events may sound counterintuitive to finding joy, especially if you are more introverted. There is a different quality to mindfully connecting with someone you care about versus the social pressure of being “on” at parties and events. Find someone who lifts you up and spend even just a few mindful moments with that person. Stay off your phone, turn off the television and be present with this person, even if you have nothing to say. Just enjoy their company.
Breathe. Finally, find joy in your breath. Regardless of the quality of our breath, the fact that we are breathing and alive in this moment can be one of the most profound experiences of joy. As founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.” To take this practice further try the Breath of Joy to lift up and energize or sign up for our next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class starting in January.
May you find joy and peace in this moment.