Beating the Holiday Blues

Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin suggests ways to feel merrier this season

by David Levine
happier at home gretchen rubin image

Another strategy is to make a new tradition. If your father always gave the toast before the meal and he is no longer alive, make the toast yourself and say this is in honor of my father. It is a way of preserving the tradition.

Although commercials say holidays are to be spent with family, you don't have to.  Make yourself happy. Invite a few friends for dinner or go to a restaurant. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Surround yourself with people who you like.

I know of a family who celebrate "Thanksmass " in the middle of December. That is because on the actual holidays, they had other obligations.  Some had to spend the holidays with their spouse's family. Others were going to be away on vacation. I like this idea because it preserves the tradition of getting together, which is this true spirit of a holiday, but reflects the realities of extended families and time pressures.

Take care of yourself. Athletes know that the night before a big sporting event they need to eat a good meal and get a good night's sleep. They want to be at their best the next day. And so should you. If you arrive at the holidays tired and stressed out from traveling, couple that with a big meal and being with your relatives, you are not going to be at your best. So "keep your gas tank full." During the holiday season, make sure you sleep and exercise as much as possible before the main event.

Remember that drinking is always not festive; it's a mood changer. If your body is worn down, it affects your emotions. Alcohol won't make you feel better. It will probably make you feel worse.

Think in advance. What do you want your holidays to be? Perhaps rather than being with your family all day, you might want to volunteer and help people who are less fortunate than you. Research shows that when you help others you feel better about yourself. So spend the morning volunteering in a shelter and the afternoon with your family.

Don't take it personally. Remember that people do not always know what to say.  Remarks like "wow, I thought you gave up smoking,"or "I've seen you put an extra pounds, what happened to the diet?"  might not be the hostile remark you think but an offhanded attempt at a joke.

Holidays are not a time for debates. My strategy for dealing with difficult relatives is accepting the fact that I really can't change them. My advice is to change your attitude if you can, or interact as minimally as possible with difficult family members.

Don't forget to be grateful. If you are in a restaurant, it may not be the traditional way of spending a holiday, but you don't have to cook and you don't have to clean up.

Negative emotions are part of a happy life. You cannot be happy all the time. If you are experiencing negative emotions, rather than trying to dismiss them, use them to examine your life. And although you may not be living the life you wanted, you are living a life.  Use this time to ask yourself what else can I do, what else do I need.

The holiday blues can be looked at as a call to action. Look at them as an opportunity, not a challenge. 

Next: How to Host Holiday Guests (and Actually Enjoy the Visit)

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