by: Alicia M. Blanco
I’ve been receiving several messages lately from people who want to know how I stay so happy during this time of year. It’s supposed to be a season of celebration and joy but in reality, it’s a season of heightened depression for many.
At first I was confused how anyone could RESIST happiness during this time of year because Christmas (and this entire season in general) is when I’m in total bliss. I’m like a big kid; I’ve had my Michael Buble Christmas CD playing in my car since October (I know…), I get giddy when the mall starts to decorate and set up for Santa, and even though I don’t drink coffee, I get excited knowing Starbucks is in the season of their famous red cups and holiday themed drinks. I can go on and on but I think you get it- I am obsessed with this time of year. The only thing I find depressing is that I have to wait a whole year for it again as soon as it’s all over.
But as more and more messages came in asking me for advice on how to “endure” the season, I started to really think about why people might feel so anxious or unhappy when the holidays come around.
First off, the media bombardment of smiling family and friends can be overwhelming and annoying. I get it! Nonstop commercials on TV are showcasing these perfect happy model looking families and groups of good looking friends going shopping and spending money without a care in the world.
While we all know these are entirely staged productions intended to attract consumer spending, some people may start to compare their lives to the lives of others- even more so on social media. They begin to question the relationships in their lives as well as their financial situation. It’s a huge stressor! They also might reflect on another year coming to an end and think about what they DON’T have.
One individual who wrote me said the reason she struggles with staying happy during the holidays is because she never had a father figure in her life and her mother struggled immensely to afford the basic necessities. She grew up really resenting the process of exchanging gifts and even associates the holidays with guilt for receiving anything.
Its even been said that suicide rates and mood disorders increase in this season due to triggers of loneliness, financial stress, inadequacy, and lack of belonging. How can we fix this?
If you’re feeling down about the holidays, here are 8 ways I stay happy through them:
1. DON’T COMPARE: I am as guilty as anybody for comparing what I have to what others have, but the less I do this, the happier I am. Keep in mind what you see on TV is not real and what you see on social media is just the same. I came across a great quote the other day – “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick – Super true.
2. I CATER TO THE 5 SENSES- I decorate my home beautifully so what I SEE is visually appealing and stimulating. I eat want I want – it’s not bikini season, it’s cookies and milk season! Treat yourself to eating what you know TASTES amazing. You earned it! Also, my home SMELLS like vanilla cookies, cake and pumpkin spice – anything that’s reverent of the season. Next, I almost always have music on that makes me feel good to HEAR. It doesn’t have to be Christmas music, (mine is) but I’m such a lover of music year-round and even fall asleep to a playlist.
3. BE A KID AGAIN- I embrace an intense sense of childlike wonder and dive into the season as if I were a little girl again. In fact, I need to get myself to Disneyland ASAP. Rafael if you’re reading this, let’s go.
4. I strive to make new MEMORIES – this one would be especially helpful for those of you who associate the season with a bad memory. Clean those up and replace them with new and uplifting ones starting today!
5. BUILD TRADITIONS – make those memories you created truly last by establishing them as rock solid TRADITIONS. This should be something you know you’ll eagerly anticipate year round whether it’s shopping for a Christmas tree with your nephew or decorating the house with your boyfriend with your favorite movie on – set something up in stone as “yours” and “ours.” Ever since I was a little girl, all the women in my family get together a week or so before Christmas and make dozens (and dozens) of tamales. We laugh, cry, joke around with each other, have deep conversations, and have mariachi music playing in the background while we work because that’s what my Nana likes – It’s something we all look forward to every year. It’s messy and hilarious. It’s tradition.
6. I’M AROUND THE ONES I LOVE- you really should do this all year round but during this season it’s all the more imperative. My boyfriend and I will be spending two weeks in Arizona in a couple weeks with my family and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. Being around the ones I love and who love us means the world to me…
7. On that same note, pay attention to people. FOCUS ON OTHERS more than yourself. By now you know I’m a huge advocate of random acts of kindness in hopes that it will impact someone who might be struggling with depression or just having a bad day – so I really step it up even more during this time of year and in return, I’m happier for it.
I find that the less I focus on myself, like what I have or don’t have, and instead use all of that time and energy for others, the happier I am. I have no time to get sad about my circumstances if I’m more focused on improving the circumstances of others. I’m distracted in the best way possible. I strive to demolish statistics in depression and suicide by being kinder – especially during this time of year when people might need it the most. Try it!
I encourage you to keep in mind that although the year is coming to an end, it’s your opportunity for a new beginning. If you really struggle to embrace the season, ask yourself why. Recognize the root of any issues you are having with this time of year and completely release it all. Give the negativity zero power.
If all else fails, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear!” Elf is on TV right now as I’m writing this, so I had to do that. Cheesy me!
And I’m taking my puppy Romeo to go visit Santa at the mall this week too… yes I am.