Ways to be Happy Over the Holiday Season

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 |  December 26, 2019
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The mere mention of the holiday season can evoke a wide array of emotions in many people.  Some people may feel giddy with childish excitement, while others can experience a deep sense of dread.  Some individuals become riddled with anxiety as they prepare for the onset of inevitable chaos, while others methodically begin to plan their every move before Thanksgiving is even upon us.  Others may experience an intense, unexpected flare up of grief and loss that can bring them to their very knees, while others who are estranged somehow find their way back during the magic of the season.  Despite the tornado of emotions that the holidays can bring, several strategies can help one to maximize feelings of happiness and positivity around the holidays.

One way to achieve happiness is to choose to be around others.  This may seem counterintuitive if you are feeling down, but isolating yourself will only lead to loneliness and sadness.  Socializing with others encourages company and camaraderie, whether with strangers, co-workers, friends, or family members.  Spending time with others can keep your mind off stress and prevent fixation on negative and unproductive thoughts.

Another way to be happy over the holidays is to perform random acts of kindness.  It is a proven fact that we gain secondary benefits from doing something meaningful for someone else.  An act of kindness can be something small, such as holding the door for an elderly stranger, or can be a larger venture, such as adopting a needy family for the holidays.  Kindness can be volunteering at a soup kitchen, collecting Toys for Tots, paying for the person behind you in the drive thru, or carrying garbage to the curb for a disabled neighbor. 

Another way to be happy during the holidays is to be kind to yourself.  So often, people deprive themselves of tasting a delicious cookie, or sampling a decadent dish at dinner.  They politely decline a beverage or glass of wine for fear of consuming too many calories.  Worse, if they do succumb to these vices, they later berate themselves for it.  Allow yourself to take advantage of these opportunities by enjoying and indulging without guilt or remorse.  After all, it only happens once a year.

Hand in hand with being kind to yourself is the concept of self-care.  Being mindful of your own needs is paramount around the holidays.  Know your limits and know when you need to take some time for yourself, whether it is a short walk around the block or a soothing bubble bath.  Take a few extra moments to listen to the end of your favorite song, or blow off that last errand if it means preserving your sanity.  If the pressure of the holiday becomes too much, learn to say “no” when you need to.  If sending out holiday cards or making twelve dozen cookies is going to bring you to the brink of your sanity this year, make modifications without guilt.

Finally, happiness can truly flourish around the holiday season when we are mindful and grateful for what we have.  Making holiday plans with family members, moving the Elf on the Shelf every day, and organizing gift exchanges at work can definitely add to the chaos of the holiday season.  But what would our lives be without these things?  What would we do without our crazy family members, precious children, and occupations?  Increasing awareness of all that we have to be grateful for can effectively shift our focus as to what is important in life.

The whirlwind of emotions around the holidays can make it difficult for people to find happiness, especially when feelings can change so rapidly and without warning.  However, if you make a concerted effort to practice some of these strategies, you too can find happiness this holiday season. 

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.
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