4 Tips for a Better Holiday Season

The holiday season is here. For many the mere thought creates panic or an anxious state of mind. No one can promise that all will go smoothly and everyone (especially you) will be happy. There are things you can do to make the season easier, brighter and merrier. Check out these 4 Tips for a Better Holiday Season.

1.  Begin with Practicing Gratitude. 

Research shows that people who express gratitude can experience happiness that may last for up to a month! An experiment conducted by Robert Emmons Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, and author of The Little Book of Gratitude (2016); Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity (2013); Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (2007); Words of Gratitude Mind Body & Soul (2001); and The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality (1999); found that subjects who made a daily list of things they were grateful for showed higher levels of optimism and enthusiasm, exercised more regularly and made greater progress on personal goals.

This is powerful! I do this regularly only instead of making a list, I simply think about all that I am grateful for before I get out of bed in the morning. My day begins on a good note and I’m much more enthused and energetic. Compare this to waking up, groaning, and thinking about how much you don’t want to go to work, prepare for the holidays, begin cooking, go to a meeting, whatever it is you may dread. How do you feel if you think negatively first thing in the day? You are certainly not in a positive frame of mind. In fact, it’s beginning your day filled with negativity. You can change this. You can make a choice of what you think, what you are thankful for, and begin your day feeling good. Believe me you will be much more productive, engaged and happy.

2.  Breathe.

This may sound easy and perhaps not necessary to add since we all breathe everyday, all day. What I’m talking about is to stop…take a slow deep breath in through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat 3-5 times. Be completely in the present moment with your breath.

When you breathe like this you are turning on your parasympathetic nervous system.That is the part of you autonomic nervous system that slows down your heart rate and breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and sends extra blood to your stomach and intestines so your body can digest the food in your stomach. This is often called the rest/restore and digest response. It conserves energy and allows your body to restore itself and heal.

The parasympathetic nervous system balances the sympathetic nervous system which controls the body’s response to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When you are stressed or anxious about the holidays or any event (traffic jams, a complaining customer or boss, cranky child) all trigger the autonomic nervous system and prepares your body for fight or flight. Now that is good when it is a true emergency. However, our busy lives, tight schedules, never ending tasks, unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and limiting self-beliefs keep the autonomic nervous system on. Our bodies are not meant to be in the agitated state chronically. That causes a lot of damage to our bodies and if not controlled, can lead to chronic illness. 

When you feel yourself stressed and anxious, you cannot always think clearly or be creative. You may be more prone to snapping at others and saying things you later wish never were said. Notice what is going on in your body and mind. Then….simply breathe slowly.

3.  Prioritize & Visualize.

Determine what is most important for you and your family for a happy holiday. Dig deeper….what is the feeling you want, what is really important? Write that down. Think about it. What about that is so important to you? What would you gain if your holiday was just that? What would you lose if your holiday was just that? In a few words write what is most important for a happy holiday. Keep that in you mind, post it on the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, by your bed…anywhere and everywhere you will see it to remind yourself. Now close your eyes, breathe deeply, and visualize that holiday. Visualize what it will take to have the holiday you’ve always wanted. Feel that vision throughout your body. How does it make you feel? Where do you feel lightness? Notice where in your body you are relaxing. Let the tension fade away. Do this visualization everyday to keep it close and remind yourself.

Now compare that to your list of all the things you would normally do, or try to do. How does that make you feel? Notice the tension that may be starting in your body. Notice the thoughts you are having and how they are affecting your body. STOP! Now go back and visualize the holiday you really want and experience how that feels. Go to that list and cross off all the things you do not need to do if they don’t contribute to your best holiday. For example, baking all those cookies and pastries. Do you really enjoy doing that? If the answer is no, or you would if you really had the time, cross it off the list. Consider other options…only making 1-2 types of cookies, or buy them! Or maybe not have any at all. Have a healthier holiday.

Be ruthless with this list. Don’t think or expect yourself to do everything! It’s all not necessary or possibly even doable. Sometimes it really is the small things that matter. Simplify this holiday season and have time to actually enjoy it!

4.  Be Realistic.

This is a really important step to do. Truly be realistic in what you not only want for your holiday, but what is truly reasonable to do or have. For example, maybe you wish your mother could be there, but she passed away last year. She cannot be there. However, you could honor her memory at this time of year. Maybe share stories of past holidays with her with your family. Or perhaps you cannot get back to your family for the holidays this year. That is what you want most. Realistically, you cannot be there. Get creative. What can you do that still honors the traditions in your family? Or what can you do to start a new tradition…one that makes you feel good and smile?

Sometimes what is really the best is to simply be with your family and/or friends. What really matters is the quality time with them, not all the trappings of commercialism. Be there, truly there, in the present moment with them - that will make a beautiful holiday and memory.  

I strongly encourage you to find time for yourself. Be present, breathe, turn on the parasympathetic nervous system and relax. Simplify. Create space for yourself so you can be your best in all the holiday moments and those leading up to them.

Wishing you health, happiness & joy!