The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, appreciation, gatherings with friends and family, and all the other Hallmark images that come to our mind. However, there are many of us that struggle this time of year. This could be for reasons such as missing loved ones, being isolated, financial struggles, relationship problems, added stress because of the holidays, depression, and anxiety.
This article isn’t about waving a magic wand and fixing any of those things that are not in your control. Instead, we are going to talk about 3 things that are in your control; that you can do right now, and they will greatly improve you enjoying the holiday season.
1. Be grateful. My favorite author, Brene Brown, talks about how gratefulness is the key to joy. When I first read this I thought, “but I am grateful, so where is this joy feeling?”. I also thought, “yeah well Brene.. you don’t know all that I am dealing with”. Comparing ourselves and our life to others, or the way we think things should be; is a joy thief.
-HOLIDAY CHALLENGE #1: Each day write down 3 things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as waking up in the morning, or that your car started, or that you read my blog (kidding! Humor helps too by the way). Speak each thing out loud.
2. R.A.H.K. Random Acts of Holiday Kindness. Want to get into the holiday mood quick? Do something kind for someone else, holiday related. Make it random as heck. This year I sent out Holiday cards for the first time ever. When I started putting them together, I felt a sense of “holiday spirit”. I enjoyed thinking about each person and that they would get a card. It became about me giving instead of me getting. Other ideas would be to make little gift bags for friends or co-workers, bring treats into the office, leave a homemade holiday gift on a neighbor’s front step, or volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. I remember when I was around 8 years old someone left a little gift for my family on our doorstep each night for the 12 Days of Christmas. Each day it was different and we were so excited to see what awaited us was each day! What I don’t remember about this time, is that my family was going through a lot of struggle financially and my dad was getting sick. So as a child I just remember “yay, it’s Christmas”. For my parents, there was stress. This R.A.H.K. helped my family feel joy during this difficult time.
-HOLIDAY CHALLENGE #2: Each day do one R.A.H.K. Then share about it on your social media with #RAHK! I want to hear what you did!
3. Holiday Mindfulness. If you don’t know what mindfulness is, I will give you a brief summary. Basically mindfulness uses all of your senses to stay in the “here and now”. Sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. When we stop and use our senses it actually can calm us and help any worry, anxiety, negative thinking, and rumination. You don’t have to do all of your senses at once (you can, but it’s okay if you focus on one at a time) and the idea is that you make a “mindful” effort to tune-into the sense. “I can smell my bacon cooking in the frying pan”; and think about the smell while breathing it in. So now let’s talk about Holiday Mindfulness and what that would look like.
Sight: Hang up holiday décor. It doesn’t necessarily have to be traditional, it can be unique to you. Go look at holiday lights in the neighborhood or even a drive-through light display. Basically, take moments to look at holiday things. If you are at home watching tv or playing a video game, put the tree up and let the holiday exist in your environment. It’s okay if you aren’t motivated to put up decorations, go look at them somewhere. Or put them up anyways.
Smell: I just love the smell of pine cones, Christmas trees, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice; especially during this time of year. Take a moment and light an awesome smelling candle. Use your amazing essential oils and pick a “holiday smell”. Buy a spray can of Glade in a holiday scent and spray that in your house or office.
Hearing: This may sound corny, but if I am in a bad mood and I put Christmas music on, it lifts my spirits. What is your favorite holiday song? I love “O Holy Night” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and when I hear those songs I can’t help but feel gratefulness and joy. Put on some Holiday music and rock it out.
Touch: You can get creative with this one. What about touching the snow? Make a snow-ball. What about touching wrapping paper? Or your Christmas tree? Take a moment and think about what the item feels like in your hand and fingers.
Taste: Have a holiday cookie! Drink a peppermint mocha! Eat some turkey and cranberry sauce! When you are tasting; chew and breathe in, thinking about what you are tasting and enjoy each bite. Mindfulness isn’t inhaling it in less than 2 seconds.
-HOLIDAY CHALLENGE #3: Each day practice holiday mindfulness with at least one of your senses.
We have a choice each day to be proactive on the things within our control to change. Being joyful is one of them. By taking the time to slow down and be grateful, give to others, and be mindful; we improve our overall wellbeing. Happy Holidays!