The holidays are coming and for many it’s a time of nostalgia, joy, and magical memories. The food, drinks, time spent with family, holidays lights, and traditions can lift your mood. Research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology finds that people who put up their holiday decorations early tend to be happier and friendlier. Decorating helps boost dopamine, the feel-good hormone! While the simple pleasures of the holidays can bring on positive feelings, there are many people who experience the same experiences in a negative way. Negative childhood associations, loss, stress, social anxiety, physical illness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and so many other reasons the holidays can be a struggle. Here are some tips to help increase your joy this holiday season.
Acknowledge your struggle: I say it all the time, self-awareness is the key to making changes. Acknowledge the struggle you’re going through, it’s valid.
Identify a goal: What is your goal this holiday season? Do you want to attend a social event, spend time with friends and/or family, or decorate your home? When you find yourself veering away from your goals, bring yourself back. For example, does stressing over having the biggest spread of food for the holidays align with your goal to spend time with friends and family. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't -- the goals are there to give you some perspective.
Seek support: Getting help is a strength not a weakness. Use your self-awareness to think about what kind of support you need. Friends, family, counselors, or anyone that can help support you towards your goals. Not every problem is one that can be fixed independently.
Start a new tradition: Not everyone has warm holiday memories and that’s okay. There’s no time like the present to create new traditions. Watch a holiday movie, bake a holiday treat, or drive around to look at lights. Each new experience will create a new association in the brain which has power to influence your outlook on the holiday the next year. Creating new happy memories is within your reach!
Take time to de-stress: Just because it’s the season of giving, it doesn't mean you should stop taking care of yourself. Do things that bring you joy each day. If you struggle with motivation for this one, remember to keep it simple. Watch a funny holiday movie, take a walk/drive to look at holiday lights, have a holiday themed drink or food, or listen to music. Some of the best things in life are the simplest. Remember to praise yourself because it’s not easy!
Volunteer during the holidays: According to Everyday Health, a 2021 review showed that volunteering for 2-3 hours per week or 1-10 hours per month offers mental health benefits such as finding meaning and purpose, developing empathy, social connectedness, feeling like you matter, and contributing to society. If you had the opportunity, where would you volunteer? Doing for others is another great way to release dopamine in the brain.
Give to others: Much like volunteering, giving to others another way to bring on the good feelings in your brain. In return, you may feel more motivated to participate in other activities.
Scent: Never underestimate the power of a great smell! Light a holiday scented candle or wax melts.
Gratitude: Focus on all the things in your life that you are grateful for (including yourself!) and express gratitude whenever you can. An attitude of gratitude is uplifting and puts the focus on things that are meaningful.
We have a new holiday season upon us, and you can make this year better-- if not wonderful! It may be difficult to embrace change or take the first step towards life improvement, but you can do hard things! Whether it’s holiday decorations after Halloween, getting out of bed to watch a holiday movie with a friend, or attending your therapy appointment- you’re winning. One small step with motivation can spiral into many great experiences. Let’s go, the time is now! Give us a call if you need any help -- our team has the spirit!