Holiday Blues

As the holiday season approaches, you’re inundated with images of festive families who all seem so perfect, so happy, and so very peaceful. The fact is, these made-for-screen moments are few and far between, and the rest of us mere mortals struggle with conflicting emotions during this time of year. If you’re dreading the holiday season, or even on the fence about whether or not you’ll enjoy yourself, there are some steps you can take to help you navigate the season with ease, and dare we say, even joy.

The stress that comes with ensuring that everything is perfect, including yourself, can be overwhelming. So instead of looking forward to this time, you find yourself with the holiday blues which can create sadness, loss, anger, depression…..

Here’s a look at how you can shift your perspective and expectations so that the holidays, and any other time of year for that matter, don’t get you down.

1. Practice gratitude

Rather than approaching the holidays with a long laundry list of shortcomings and complaints, why not flip the narrative around and recognize the things for which you are grateful — the things that you otherwise take for granted? No matter your situation, if you look hard enough, there is usually plenty you can be thankful for, such as sunshine, breathing, flowers, beautiful colors, healthy brains, friendships, love, good food to eat, a house to sleep in, and the list goes on.

All too often, we focus on the things that bother us, where we’ve been handed a raw deal, where we’ve been treated unfairly. We don’t deny that these things may be true. But you’re not painting the full picture when you only focus on the negative. There’s also plenty that is going right, starting with the fact that you’re able to sit quietly and read this.

So, as the holidays approach, a great technique is to list three things that you’re grateful for at the end of each day. By writing them down, you make them real, and it also gives you something you can look back on. As the holidays get closer, you’ll realize that your list continues to grow. By turning from indignation or defeat to an attitude of gratitude, you’ll be amazed at just how much better the world looks through this filter.

Dogs express gratitude with unconditional love and give us reason to be grateful.

2. Practice mindfulness

This ancient technique for mental and physical wellness simply asks that you stay in the moment. What isn’t so simple is putting this into practice. Our lives are awfully busy these days, and we’re constantly worrying about what’s next, or worse, worrying about something from the past that can’t be changed.

With mindfulness, you exist only in the moment, neither looking forward nor back. You simply ease in and experience every single thing that comes your way, good or bad, without judgment.

One of the best starter practices for mindfulness is mindful eating. We live in a world where we wolf down food, barely giving it a second thought, so this is a good place to slow yourself down. Next time you grab something to eat, clear your head and focus on what you’re eating. What does it smell like? How does it feel in your mouth? Which areas of your mouth are responding? What’s the texture like?

The next step is to take this practice to all areas of your life. The key to mindfulness is to stay in your here and now, to melt into the conversation at the holiday table and really listen. Ultimately, the key to mindfulness is to suspend judgment and just be.