If you’re feeling kind of “meh” about the holidays this year, take comfort. You may be able to infuse new meaning and joy into the holidays with these simple tactics.
It’s common to assume that the holidays are (or should be) a joy-filled, magical time for all. But that’s not always the case. In fact, the holiday “blahs” can happen to anyone, at any time, and for a lot of different reasons. For some, the holidays tend to trigger a lot of stress, sadness, or both. If you’re grappling with loneliness, depression, or another mental health issue, the holidays are more likely to make these conditions worse.
In recent years, generating holiday cheer may have felt even tougher due to the pandemic. This holiday season, things may be back to normal for the most part. People are traveling and gathering more freely with friends and family. But that doesn’t mean everyone has suddenly bounced back to their former jolly selves this year. So, if you’re still struggling to muster your usual holiday spirit this season, that’s understandable.
One possible way to renew your holiday mojo? Try adjusting your mindset. Rather than trying to resurrect your holiday spirit from years past, try to find new meaning in the holidays this season. Shifting your mindset and priorities a little may help you rediscover a new kind of magic. Here are 6 ways to help you do just that.
1. Adjust your expectations
Spending the holidays in a mad flurry of shopping, gift wrapping, hall decking, traveling, and party planning has been the norm for many folks for decades. And it still is for many people today. But if you’re not feeling up to the same annual expectation to “go all out” this season, give yourself permission to rein it in a little. Cramming too many activities into your holiday schedule is a recipe for stress, fatigue, and sapped joy.
What often leads to the runaway train of holiday chaos is the vision embraced by many of “the perfect holiday.” Try to let go of that. Instead, pare down your holiday to-do list. Or try to simplify your traditional festivities. You can use the resulting gift of time for more rest, relaxation, and self-care.
That doesn’t mean you have to ditch all your beloved holiday traditions and celebrations. You still can enjoy them. Just think of doing a little less this year. And look for new, simpler, more relaxing ways to celebrate the holidays.2. Tune in to your values
Your values are those things in your life that you care about most deeply. But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of these during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Stop and think about what is most meaningful to you in your life. Then think about using the holidays as a time to tune in more deeply to these values. Doing so may bring you deeper satisfaction. And it may help you learn to live by your values more closely all year round.
Say that one of your most cherished values is having good relationships with your family members. In that case, you could make sure to spend time with your family over the holidays. You could also make it a goal to try to ease family tensions that seem to be more common during the holidays. You might even attempt to heal a family rift by reaching out to an estranged family member during the holiday season.
Or perhaps one of your values is inner peace. You might foster greater inner peace by carving out more downtime this holiday season. You might spend more time in nature. You could take a mindfulness meditation class. You might decide to take a break from social media. Finding ways to relax, slow down, and be more present during the holidays may help you cultivate the inner peace you treasure so much.
3. Reflect on what the holidays mean to you spiritually
You might want to use this holiday season as an opportunity to reflect on the spiritual or religious traditions surrounding the holidays—no matter your own personal “reason for the season.” Whether that’s Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, winter solstice, or another path, think about what the holidays mean to you spiritually. You might tune into the spiritual side of the season by celebrating your most cherished holiday rituals, like singing carols or going to religious services.
Keep in mind that observing the spiritual aspect of the holidays does not mean you have to assign a certain religion to them. Think about what the holidays truly mean to you—or what you’d like them to mean to you. What makes them feel sacred to you? What has given you the most joy in holidays past? You might tune into the spiritual side of the holidays by indulging in nostalgic memories.
You might also connect more deeply with the spirit of the season by focusing a little less on holiday consumerism. Maybe aim for a little less gift buying. Instead, try to find other ways to show your generosity or to spread more kindness this season.
4. Try to connect with others during the holidays
Isolation can lead to loneliness and depression at any time of year. But it can lead you to feel even more down during the holidays.
If you’ve been out of touch with friends or family, try to reconnect. If the hectic holiday season makes it too hard to connect in person, try a phone call or a video chat. If a busy work schedule or your own tendency toward seclusion is making you lonely, take steps to change that. Check out this helpful guidance on how to form deep and lasting relationships with friends, both old and new.
You might also consider reaching out to others in your life who may be isolated. Maybe you have a neighbor who lives on his own. Or an older relative living in a nursing home who doesn’t get many visitors. Hearing from you might mean the world to them and could make their holidays more merry and bright. And you will likely benefit from spending time with them as well.
5. Enjoy the comfort and coziness of hygge
Hygge (roughly pronounced hoo-ga) is the Danish word for “comfort” or “coziness.” It’s a wonderful custom practiced in Denmark that is all about cherishing the cozy, relaxed, tranquil moments you take for yourself, especially on dark, cold winter days and nights.
You can create an experience of hygge in a host of ways. If you’re spending a holiday evening alone, light some candles, pull on warm socks, and listen to soothing music. Snuggle in with a good book under a blanket. Watch a heart-warming holiday movie. Take a warm bath at the end of the day. Or go for a stroll somewhere beautiful. Look for ways to feed your soul.
If you want to share the experience of hygge with others, cook a favorite dish for your family. Invite friends over to share a meal or play a game. Cuddle with your loved one in front of a fire. When you think of hygge, think good friends, good food, and good feelings.
6. Generate more gratitude
Fostering and expressing gratitude for your life adds to health and well-being. What better time to focus on all that’s good in your life than the holidays? You might feel thankful for the roof over your head, the food on your plate, your health, or the people in your life. No matter what you’re thankful for, gratitude can go a long way towards bringing you bliss. This is true during the holidays and all year long. Look back over the year and count your blessings.
Can you think of other meaningful and enriching ways to celebrate the holidays? Doing so may breathe new life into the holiday season. And that in turn may bring you more joy, satisfaction, and well-being all year long.
But if you find that your holiday blues are lingering or interfering with your ability to cope at work or in your personal life, ask your doctor to refer you to a mental health expert who can help.
This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program. Images used for this article do not depict any members of the Silver&Fit Program.
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This article was written by Gail Olson, edited by Nora Byrne, and clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RD.