The holidays are notoriously an emotional rollercoaster-y time of year in America, full of reminiscent charm, magical nostalgia—bringing with them a sprinkle-glazed serving of melancholy for many.
Most all of us have treasured memories, traditions, funny stories, favorite old-school Christmas carols or other holiday songs and special holiday fare we relish. There is great potential for joy, excitement and merriment in holiday celebration, and spending precious time with beloved family and friends, as well as seasonal altruism.
On the flip side, there’s often accompanying sadness, irritation and depression in feeling the void of what one doesn’t have (anymore or yet) but wishes one did—especially the people who have come and gone in our lives, family changes, the belief in Santa Claus, etc.
Sometimes parents put additional pressure on themselves feeling they need to create a perfect holiday to make-up for difficult changes in their children’s lives, for example.
When there is a discrepancy between our present reality and what or who we long for, we suffer.
Longing creates suffering. We suffer because we are not present in the moment. We suffer when we focus on the void of the past or present rather than choosing to put our energy into experiencing joyful opportunities with the people in our lives.
“That’s nice, but I still feel like sh*t. Please help,” one may say.
Fair enough. Sometimes one has suffered so often that it becomes habitual, and one doesn’t know how not to suffer.
I’ve compiled a few suggestions to help to get present and enjoy the holiday season.
1. Get outside.
Even if we live where it’s cold—put on coat and boots and get out for a walk. Engage all our senses. Notice the smells, the sounds, the details in what we see, the temperature of the air on our skin, the taste of the air.
If we notice a lot of chatter in our brain, just notice and move back to our senses, our breath, our feet on the ground. What kind of ground are we walking on? What senses were most sensitive?
2. Give gratitude.
Make a list of who and what we feel grateful for during this season. What opportunities might this season provide?
Write with pen and paper. Better yet, in our holiday cards, share with friends and family something about them or our relationship with them that is appreciated. Say thank you to the people in the stores that help us.
Smile in the stomach. Smile in the liver. Smile in the lungs. Smile in the toes.
Smile if this seems silly.
Sometimes we need to go the other way and stimulate our physiology to bring about the emotion.
When sad or irritating feelings come up, allow them. Don’t ignore them or judge them. That will surely make them feel worse! Treat them with respect as important visitors and get to know them. Ask “who’s here?” and listen for the story in their answer.
Be with them for a time and allow them to move through like a passing wave. We may want to either write these feelings in a journal to process and contain them, or if creatively inclined, move them through scribbling or drawing. Then move on to another activity.
Get swept up in an engaging novel or something that’s interesting. A book suggestion: The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer is a great companion in tough times.
6. Laugh therapy.
Laughter is good medicine for the soul. Watch some tried and true sitcom reruns or spend time with people we feel happy around and get the giggle on.
7. Holiday traditions.
Continue a tradition or ritual from the past that is meaningful to it’s own way, or start a new one. Perhaps find a place to volunteer our warm heart and hands.
It really is your choice to experience joy or choose not to. Whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t celebrate), I wish you many moments of contentment and joy this season.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Angela DeVita
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock