Many of us love the holidays! We relish in the merry songtrack playing in the malls (with all the online shopping, isn’t it amazing that the malls are still full!!). We notice and respond to the warm and happy demeanour of the people we meet. We get excited about visiting friends and family.
Some of us dread the holidays. As Ray Williams reports in Psychology Today, “For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more.? Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.”
Whether this is a tough time of year or not for you, you can always benefit from some strategies to engage positive emotion. And, the bonus is…these strategies work all year long!
LOOKING FOR ‘HAPPY’?
Strategy: Think Gratitude
- What am I grateful for?
- What makes me smile?
- What are my blessings?
Start a Gratitude Journal. Each day, write down three things for which you are grateful. What do you notice in a week? In a month?
LOOKING FOR ‘CALM’?
Strategy: Focus on Breathing
- How can I let go?
- What images/sounds help me feel content?
- Where does calm reside in me?
- Relax into a favourite position. Touch your thunbs and forefingers and interlock them to make two rings. Rest here for 1-2 minutes.
LOOKING FOR ‘JOY’?
Strategy: Focus on Pleasure
- What is the source of my delight?
- What brings me joy?
- What uplifts me?
- Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. As you breathe out, allow the sound ‘Haaaaa’ to come out. Experiement with sounding softly and loudly.
- What else happens in your body as you do this at least 8 times?
LOOKING FOR ‘UNDERSTANDING’?
Strategy: Observe and Honor the Other
- What emotion am I noticing in the other person?
- What does the other person need?
- Where do I feel connected to the other?
- Step into the other person’s shoes by experimenting with mimicking the person’s standing, sitting, walking, gestures. Put yourself in their posture. How does it feel? What thoughts come up?
LOOKING FOR ‘LETTING GO’?
Strategy: Focus on Now
- When do I feel most free?
- What do I do to let go and be in the present moment?
- What opens me up?
- Stand tall, balanced on both feet. Place your hands behind your head, fingers laced together. Press the back of your head into your clasped hands. Notice the sense of uplifting and opening in your chest and upper back.
- Choose a strategy, or try them all. The key is….pause and notice the small shifts that might be occurring…and then appreciate and allow them to integrate within you.
As an added bonus, check out a wonderful book written by Kevin Rempel, Paralympian and Founder of the Sledge Hockey Experience. In his book, Still Standing, Kevin tells a compelling and authentic story of overcoming adversity. In one of the final chapters, he says “I get it. I’ve lived it. We all have down days. It’s part of human nature. I just want you to know you can take control of the situation. Here’s how I did it. 1) Accept everything. It allows you to look forward. ; 2) Get your priorities in order. Sleep. Exercise. Eat. Socialize.; 3) Journal. Get it out of your head. ; 3) Reach out for help, then accept help.
So, now…go out and create the kind of holiday (and life) you would like to create.