Yes, the holiday season is upon us once again. For some, as the carol suggests, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For others, the holidays accentuate feelings of isolation, sadness or grief. Financial strain and exhaustion from a busier-than-usual social calendar can also have a destabilizing effect on mood. Combine these negative feelings with the-tinsel-laden-high expectations of what the holidays should be, and the result can be bitter disappointment. Relax. Below are five simple and effective candy-cane flavored mood repair strategies to help combat the holiday blues.
The first tool is as plain as the nose on your face, only it’s an inch lower. That’s right. Turn that frown upside down and simply smile. Five minutes of smiling increases endorphin levels in your body. Endorphins are to your brain what elves are to Santa, well, sort of. Endorphins are like tiny little helpers that do all the hard work so that you can feel jolly. You see, smiling is easy and can be done even while you read this article.
Practice gratitude daily. Think of this as an advent calendar for your soul. Instead of opening little numbered windows each day and retrieving tiny treats or chocolates, open a window into your heart. Take a minute and examine everything you are grateful for. If you have trouble coming up with something, spend a few minutes not closing your eyes. By the time you allow yourself to blink, you can at least find gratitude for your eyelids. Start with the smallest things and continue writing non-stop for one minute each day. An attitude of gratitude will lift your holiday’s latitude!
Stop comparing. When you find yourself making comparisons of how much your life sucks to how amazing his or her life is. Stop! Simply remember the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Teddy should know. He disallowed Christmas trees from being placed in the white house during his presidency because of environmental concerns. He didn’t care what others were doing or saying, he remained true to himself. And in my own words, to compare is to despair. So be like Teddy this holiday and do what works for you.
Just say no to ‘nogs! Alcohol flows abundantly during the holidays. When stressed out or sad it’s easy to reach for a drink, or three, to help cope with uncomfortable feelings. But remember, it is only a temporary fix. Drinking comes with big consequences to your mood because alcohol is a depressant. It takes days for the mood-lowering effects of alcohol to leave your body. Try making a healthy mock-tail this season instead. You will be all the merrier for it.
Help someone in need or do something nice. Even the smallest acts of kindness can bring great results. Help an elderly neighbor by bringing them their newspaper, smile at a stranger, or tell someone a joke. For example, what do snowmen eat for lunch? Icebergers! Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. All of these small acts bring big rewards in terms of mood. According to researcher and author Stephen Post, helping, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking.
If none of these mood repair strategies work for you, reach out and ask for help. Start with asking a friend. Tell your therapist or doctor. Meanwhile, start with your first act of kindness and get feeling happier today and share this article!