I'm always sad when people are lonely or depressed over the holidays, especially if it's me! Here are 25 ways to feel grateful, joyful and find the spirit of the season.
1. Look for beauty. You won't have to look far. A careful eye can find it in a family member, the landscape or even a bowl of fruit on the dining table.
2. Forget what is worrying you and make a list of good things that will likely happen. Imagine these every chance you get and when they do happen, remind yourself that your life is good.
3. Try something new; something you've never done before. Go skiing, get a massage, volunteer at a food bank. If you bring your significant other along with you, it may make you feel quite romantic, like when you first met.
4. Offer at least one unsolicited compliment to someone everyday. I love to pick strangers like the girl at the checkout or the server at the coffee shop. Notice how it makes them light up.
5. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If a visiting relative says, "Hmmm, I wouldn't have used those dishes", ignore your pre-concieved notion of what she meant. Maybe she is thinking you had a great idea that she would like to copy.
6. Give gifts because you want to, not because you are obligated or you hope they'll give you something in return.
7. Write a note telling someone thanks for all they've done for you. Repeat as necessary.
8. Keep a gratitude journal. All you have to do is write three things you are grateful for that day. Don't ever repeat the things you list. This will keep you on the lookout for blessings in your life.
9. Get involved in a good cause. Collect donations for a food drive, raise funds for the Phillipines, visit the elderly.
10. Think of one person or several people who mean the world to you. Make a list of nice things they have done for you. Read these when you feel lonely to remind yourself how important you must be to that person.
11. Take pleasure in the fun, fattening and good things. Let yourself enjoy your favorite treats. Don't worry about acting silly at a party. Join in, have fun.
12. Live and let live. Don't try to polish your spouse for the season. Don't try to cover for your mother. Don't try to reform your children. Love them exactly as they are, focus on their best qualities, chalk up their quirks to "variety in life" and enjoy one more year with their company.
13. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. If you hate Aunt Marge's deviled eggs, tell her how much you love her sweater.
14. Reframe situations. When someone does something offensive, try to think of a scenario where their behaviour would be the right thing to do. For example, a rude driver cuts you off in traffic... well, maybe their wife just went into labor with their first baby. (PS: This is a game I have played for years and one time my crazy, made-up scenario turned out to be the truth!)
15. Exercise. If you're like me, you hate to hear that, but shoveling snow, sledding with the kids or, if you live in a nice warm climate, taking a walk are all great for curing cabin fever and reducing stress.
16. Deal with stress differently. When you start to feel anxious, tell yourself your body is gearing up to conquer the event. If your heart starts racing, it is just pumping your blood so that you're in top performance mode. If your breathing becomes rapid, you are getting more oxygen and your brain will be more alert. This type of self-talk has been shown to actually make stress good for you, like exercise.
17. Practice random acts of kindness everyday. Just one is enough.
18. Learn something new everyday. You can write this in your gratitude journal if you like. Did you know that cocoa contains more iron than beef. Well, now you do! Did you know that the largest known living organism is Pando, the Utah Aspen trees? They are connected by one root system and may be thousands of years old making them the oldest living organism too. Who knew? Well, now you do!
19. Get enough sleep. I don't even think Black Friday sales are worth shortening my eight hours!
20. Kids are greedy, it's OK. We all want our kids to be generous, charitable and focus on the giving side of the season. They are kids. They have moments of selflessness, interspersed with long wish lists. Don't project this to mean you have raised rotten children that will be greedy forever. I'll bet if you think back on it, you likely wrote a long list or two yourself.
21. Kids are amazing manipulators. As we know from #20, they are also greedy. Don't fall for the technique I call, "Christmas will be ruined if you don't buy be an expensive gift." I've already told Abby she will not be getting an Ipad. I'm not worried about it. She is still trying to talk me into it, but we both know, it's not happening. If your children are still Santa believers, like Jack, you can just tell them Santa OK's every present with parents first and you're not OK-ing that one. Yep, I can take the fall so Santa doesn't have to.
22. Find time for yourself. Put on a Christmas movie for the kids or schedule a sitter. Take a night off, even if it's just to enjoy a good book alone in your room.
23. Meditate. Take just ten minutes out of your day to focus on your breathing and calm your thoughts.
24. Focus on your strengths. When life gets overwhelming, don't think about what you need to get done, think about what you have gotten done already and the skills you have that helped you accomplish those things.
And the last way to find your holiday spirit is...
25. Spike the eggnog.