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Tips for Finding More Joy This Holiday Season

Most of us want more joy in the holiday season, and one way to help make that happen is to take steps toward emotional, physical, and mental wellness. These tips from mental wellness experts and other health care professionals can be your guide.

Mind Your Body

An illness-free season is a more joyous season, as anyone who’s spent time at an urgent care clinic on Christmas Eve will tell you. During all the distractions of the holidays, don’t neglect your physical health. Get a flu shot if you haven’t already done so. Try to maintain your sleep cycle and spend some time outdoors as daylight hours begin to vanish, because seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a legitimate concern. When possible, avoid exposure to friends, co-workers, and relatives who are sick. Practice moderation with holiday treats and dinner spreads.

Get Input from Loved Ones

It helps to know in advance what goes under the tree, who’s cooking the holiday meals, and what’s on the menu, and then make plans as needed. However, finding out what you and your loved ones value most during the holidays can help you tailor those plans to create more enjoyable moments. Sit down over coffee or a meal and discuss with your family what is most important and meaningful to them. Planning holidays in this way can reduce stress and add real joy.

Make Connections

Technology (phone calls, FaceTime, text messages) is a poor substitute for meeting or gathering in person. Finding a time and place for coffee or a quick lunch with friends or loved ones you rarely see can be especially meaningful during the holidays. However you define “family” or “social circle,” devote some time to finding moments with those you care about.

If distance or schedules make that impossible, then it’s ok to turn to technology. Get creative. A “bad holiday sweater” or “holiday trivia game” meeting using Zoom or FaceTime – complete with hot cocoa or coffee – can make for silly, joyous, and memorable occasions. The important thing is to stay connected.

Turn Obligation Into Opportunity

Simply changing the way you describe events and plans can make them more enjoyable. Instead of, “I have to make dessert for the office lunch party,” change the thought to, “I get to show off a new recipe and share a delicious treat with my co-workers.” By seeing events and tasks as opportunities rather than obligations, you may discover how fortunate you are to participate. That can lead to a sense of gratitude, one of the deepest forms of joy.

Strive for Quality Over Quantity

You can make the effort to do or see two dozen things you somewhat enjoy during the holidays, or you can commit to 5-6 things you absolutely love. It’s a cliché to suggest that less is more, but there’s some truth to that old saying – especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Make a List, but Keep it Light

Don’t spiral into worrying about what a perfect holiday is “supposed” to be like. Unlike magazine pictorials or the movies, life is messy, disorganized, and unpredictable. Instead of focusing on holiday shortcomings, write down something fun, meaningful, successful, or exciting whenever it happens, and list one thing each day you are thankful for. Keep this “journal of joy” on the fridge and invite family members to participate or create their own.

Set Smart Resolutions

Getting up early on New Year’s Day to build a spreadsheet of life goals for the new year is, in most cases, the wrong way to make resolutions. There is a smart way, however. Research shows that following the "SMART" guide can increase your chances of success:

  • Specific: Call mom “once a week” vs. “improve relationship with mom”
  • Measurable: Walk three times per week vs. get more exercise
  • Attainable: Lose two pounds per week vs. lose 10 pounds by this weekend
  • Relevant: Save 5% from each paycheck vs. become a millionaire this year
  • Time-Specific: Stop drinking sodas by March 1 vs. cut down on sugar