“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”
The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and merriment. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that it’s the “happiest time of the year”. Unfortunately, with the fast pace of life and the ever-growing to-do-list, happiness is not the emotion a lot of people use to describe their holiday season. Instead, you hear things like “hectic”, “tiring”, “drama filled”, “expensive” and the list goes on and on.
The key is to find balance between the rush and commercialization of the holiday season, so you can experience the joy and happiness that should come with this time of year. Sometimes, the best way to find balance is to change your perspective and focus on the important things like spreading love and spending time with your family. Otherwise, you may find yourself upset and miserable.
So, here are 10 things that can keep you from being happy during the holidays and my suggestions for dealing with them:
1. Problem: Negativity or “stinkin thinkin”
Solution: Change your mindset
Sometimes our thoughts keep us from being happy and we need to be aware of whether we’re thinking of positive things or negative things. I used to work for a guy that would say, “the eyes only see and the ears only hear what the brain is looking for”. In other words, we get what we expect to get – change your mindset and you’ll change the outcome. So instead of thinking, “the holidays are always so stressful”. Change it to, “I’m going to make some changes so this year will be one of the best holiday seasons yet.” It’s important to understand the power of your beliefs and to take ownership of your thoughts.
2. Problem: Unprepared for stress
Solution: Have a plan
I think most of us have things that trigger stress, especially during the holiday season, but most of us don’t consider those things until the stress is upon us. I think it’s a good idea to assess some of the stressors that come up every year and create a plan to avoid or change them. Maybe it’s time to re-think or discard elaborate family traditions, start a family gift exchange, downsize the decorations, or even make family dinner a potluck dinner. I believe reducing your stress is good for you, as well as, for your family.
3. Problem: Unrealistic expectations
Solutions: Set a budget
Life can already be stressful with work and raising a family, but then Halloween rolls around and the stores are filled with Christmas decorations and sales to lure you into their shopping trap. If you listen to the media, you can start to feel like you must have over-the-top decorations, bigger parties, and buy more and more things for you to be happy. Before you know it, you can develop unrealistic expectations for the holidays. I suggest setting a spending budget and stick to it. Also, keep in mind it’s not the material things that make the holiday season special, but rather the love, togetherness, and bonding, which in truth doesn’t cost a thing.
4. Problem: Comparing yourself to others
Solution: Be grateful for what you have
While nothing good can come from comparing yourself to others, I think it is something we all do occasionally. But those comparisons can really get out of hand during the holidays. If you try to out decorate your neighbors or out gift your friends, you may find yourself stressed out, depressed, and broke. A good way to combat this destructive behavior is to create a gratitude journal. When you make time every day to focus on the good things in your life, you can’t help but develop a grateful attitude.
5. Problem: Having a pity party
Solution: Surround yourself with happy people
The holidays have a way of causing people to feel sorry for themselves, especially if they aren’t surrounded by their loved ones. Trust me, I know what it’s like to miss your family and contemplate staying home by yourself, but that’s the worst thing you can do. Go ahead and accept one or more of the invitations you receive and surround yourself with happy people. If for some reason you don’t receive an invitation, ask someone if you can join their family’s festivities. The point is to get out, spread love, and allow others to love on you.
6. Problem: Busy, busy, busy
Solution: Make time for yourself
For a lot people, life can really be a blur during the holiday season with all of the extra commitments and never-ending list of things to do. I think it’s important to intentionally slow down and make time for the simple things in life that bring you happiness. Whether it’s getting up before everyone else to enjoy a cup of coffee, making time to curl up with a good book, or ending the day with a hot bubble bath; the important thing is to have a little “me” time and relax.
7. Problem: Keeping emotions bottled up
Solution: Express yourself
The holiday season can bring with it a mixed bag of emotions. One minute you’re delighted by the wonder and magic of the holiday season and the next minute you’re stressed and frustrated. You may be tempted to hide your feelings, but I think it’s important to calmly express yourself and let it go. This way you can get back to enjoying all the good things that are going on instead of stewing in negativity.
8. Problem: Don’t realize how good you’ve got it
Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective on how good your life really is, especially if you buy into the shopping frenzy of the retail stores. The best way to regain your insight is to volunteer or spend time with people who are less fortunate. VolunteerMatch.org is how I find volunteer opportunities in my area, but I’m sure there are lots of other websites that can help you find charities who are looking for volunteers.
9. Problem: People pleaser
Solution: Learn to say “no”
The holidays are a season for togetherness, family, and festivities, but can also be a season of endless obligations and commitments. While it’s natural to want to support your friends and family, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the requests for your time and money. It’s important to understand that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t please everyone. Plus, it’s more important to please yourself than to commit to things you don’t want to do. So, learn to say no and don’t allow yourself or anyone else for that matter to make you feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.
10. Problem: Feel responsible for everything
Solution: Ask for help
It seems that in every family there is one person who feels responsible for everyone and everything. Whether those feelings are self-imposed or the consensus of your family, it’s important to understand you can’t do all the cooking, decorating, planning, cleaning, etc. and still enjoy yourself. Speak up and let people know you need help. You have to take responsibility for your own well-being or you won’t be in a position to take care of anyone else.
Let’s face it, we live in a time where there are a lot of distractions that can make us lose sight of what’s really important during the holiday season. I believe if we take a step back and make a few changes, it is possible to create the magical holiday season of your dreams. My wish for you and your family is that this season be filled with more love, more laughter, and more happiness than ever before. Happy Holidays!