Surviving A Holiday Setback – Five Positive Psychology Practices to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright

Somehow it doesn’t seem possible that the holidays are here and we are once again approaching the end of the year. (Seems like I say this every year!) For many of us, the holidays are a time of family gatherings, shopping, parties and more. Everywhere you turn, from magazines to social media to movies to malls, the images seem airbrushed and arranged to make it seem like everyone is enjoying a perfect holiday experience.

But that’s not necessarily so for everyone. Perhaps you’ve experienced a recent setback in your life. This might range from something as major as having experienced a death in your family, or experiencing a financial downturn, to grieving the loss of a pet, to feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to get done. Whatever the case, you are just not feeling it!

Even if you haven’t experienced a setback, getting through the holidays can often bring family or financial tensions to the surface, making things feel not so merry. So – What are your choices if you are faced with a difficult time in your life or situation to deal with?

The most obvious might be to just give in to whatever it is and skip the celebrating this year. And that’s ok to do, it really is. Just be aware that if you choose this route, this time of year along with those inescapable holiday images and sounds, may amplify your feelings of sadness or isolation or whatever negative emotion you are feeling. It can be hard to keep painful feelings from getting to you this time of year if you’re going through a difficult time, but there are things you can do to keep yourself from spiraling down further and maybe even finding some joy here and there.

Here’s where some of the rich gifts of positive psychology can make all the difference in your experience this time of year. Positive psychology principles won’t make everything magically disappear, but giving yourself the gift of acting on some or all of the following five holiday positive psychology practices can make a huge difference in how you experience the season:

One – Practice Self-compassion
The first thing to do is to stop beating yourself up for how you’re feeling and show some self-compassion. What is self-compassion? While self-esteem is rooted in how you think about yourself, self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding when you make mistakes, are under stress or are not feeling like you think you ‘should’ be feeling during the holidays.

Treat yourself with the same understanding you would extend to a loved one or good friend if they were in the same spot. Most of us are much, much too harsh on ourselves and would never subject our loved ones to the type of inner dialog we regularly direct at ourselves when we are going through a tough time. As human beings, we are not supposed to be perfect.  Further, it is through mistakes that we learn and grow.

Two – Be Grateful for the Good
Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, you can choose to see the good. One of the best ways to do this is to practice gratitude. You can keep a gratitude journal or simply go over the things for which you are grateful in your mind.

These do not have to be big things!   The positive effect on your mood does not depend on how big or small something is. Savoring and feeling grateful for that warm, first cup of coffee or bringing to mind a cherished friendship can do wonders for how you’re feeling.

Three – Make Room to Feel
Part of self-compassion is giving yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment.  But instead of wallowing in your emotions when pain comes up, try approaching this mindfully.

Accept your feelings of sadness or loss, as hard as this can be in the moment, just sit with it. Accept that this is really, really hard right now, at this moment. You’ll likely find that as you sit with your painful emotions, they will shift. Painful feelings don’t go away if we ignore them. The more we are able to face and accept what’s going on, the more likely we are to move through the feelings sooner.

Four – Create Meaningful Memories
Even if you are operating on a tight budget this year, you can still create meaningful memories. Why not make some homemade gifts for loved ones or friends or offer to organize a holiday potluck?

Window shopping costs nothing and sometimes going out with the realization that you are simply not going to purchase anything (except maybe a peppermint hot chocolate!) can bring you a sense of immense freedom while allowing you to participate in the holiday mood.

Five – Give Away Some Happiness
As humans, we are happiest when we can participate in making someone else happy. Making someone feel special costs absolutely nothing but your time. Delivering a basket of homemade treats to a struggling single mom, or an elderly neighbor, and taking a few minutes to sit down and talk with them can be a priceless experience. And you’ll benefit from the good feelings of knowing you made a difference

If you are under the spell of a holiday setback this season, please accept the gift of these five positive psychology precepts. Absorbing and applying their lessons might turn out to be the best gift you can give yourself.

I love to hear from you, so leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to answer.

With warmest wishes for the best of the season,
Suzanne

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