The holiday season can be fun, filled with laughter and a source of great joy; but for some, the holidays can also be a time of disappointment, stress, loneliness and grief.
It’s important to keep your spirits high during this season so you get the best of the holidays instead of letting the holidays get the best of you!
For many of us having “happy holidays” requires taking intentional actions.
One such action…is to smile.
Genuine smiles have the greatest effect, but even an artificial smile can lift your spirits. Research shows that smiling, even when forced, can help to improve your mood, reduce stress, lower your heart rate and even enhance your immune system.
Here are 5 tips to find peace, joy and lots of smiles during the holiday season:
1. Expect the Best
While we enjoy the company of family and friends, the truth is holiday gatherings can dig up old memories, past distresses and reignite historical disagreements.
Even in the best of situations, the possibility of reliving unpleasant experiences from the past can lead to anxiety and unwarranted stress.
You can’t control other people’s conversations or behavior, but you can control your own expectations. Our expectations greatly influence what we focus on.
Key: Focusing on having an enjoyable time lessens the effect of any potential anxiety or possible stress.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to remain optimistic!
When anxiety is low and stress is at a minimum it’s easier to smile…genuinely.
2. Love People Where They Are
Learn to accept that a person’s collection of life experiences, and how they react to them, contributes greatly to who they are and how they behave.
Siblings might grow up in the same household and have completely different life experiences. Their environment and conditions could be identical (same parents, same rules), yet they have different outlooks on life.
It’s imperative that you understand that people might see the world differently than you. Work to allow them the space to be themselves, even when you don’t agree.
I am not suggesting that you turn a blind eye to disruptive, destructive behavior; and I certainly understand wanting to help a loved one grow to a better place spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even financially. Nonetheless, the holiday festivities are probably not the best time to launch your intervention.
Key: We must love them where they are. Exercising patience at this time is a form of loving, not condoning.
3. Avoid Drama at All Costs
Aim to steer clear of other people’s issues and most importantly, your own.
Make sure you’ve taken a moment to self evaluate. Do you have a score to settle? Have you forgiven your family for past hurts? Try to address these concerns before getting together. In other words…check yourself.
Don’t initiate or participate in commotion, emotional outbursts or mental breakdowns.
Key: Decide ahead of time that you’ll remove yourself at the first sign of strife. Don’t seek to resolve, or diffuse.
Your goal is to enjoy the holidays and… smile. Even if it’s family, you have to shield yourself from emotionally draining people and situations.
And, as stated in tip #1, “Expect the Best”.
4. Mind Your Health
Shopping for gifts, entertaining family and friends, and holiday travel can all be very exhausting. Hustling through the tasks of organizing holiday festivities (while remembering the office white elephant gift exchange) has the potential to bring on additional tension and stress.
Key: Regardless of the circumstances, commit to protect your health.
Here are a few tips:
- Try to have a routine as much as possible.
- Be careful not to grab junk food on the run. Eat foods that give you energy and clarity of thought. Some of my favorites include:
- Apples: I recommend Granny Smith Apples (low sugar)
- Nuts: Blue Diamond Walnuts or Almonds (100 Calorie Pack) from Wal-Mart, Target, or your favorite grocery store
- Celery Sticks: Even Starbucks carries celery sticks 🙂
- Fruit Bars: I like That’s It! fruit bars (made from 100% real fruit)
- Minimize processed foods
- Drink lots of water
- Limit alcohol intake
- Try to have restful sleep
- Continue exercising even if it’s only in 15-minute increments (something is better than nothing).
Not only will these tips help you go through the holidays with less stress, but they can help avoid holiday weight gain.
And that’s a reason to smile :p
5. Be Ready for Surprises
We all know the holidays come around the same time year after year. Similar people, similar locations. Yet every year lots of things happen that we don’t see coming.
Life is ever evolving and a lot can change in the 12 shorts months between each holiday season. Marriages are formed and dissolved, babies are born, careers are lost or solidified and more. There’s usually a lot to catch up on!
Additionally, someone might burn the turkey, forget the paper plates, or God forbid, drink too much!
I think we can agree that the holiday season is loaded with unpredictability. The best way to minimize the stress, is to have a plan…and plan to smile.
The intent of the holiday season is undoubtedly positive, but as with anything, there can be problems.
Key: Maximize the time you have to plan and prepare for the holidays each year in order to limit the effects of the unknown as much as you can.
So, Smile! 🙂
Smiling is one of the most natural and economical ways to shift your mind and improve your mood. I challenge to you be resolute in your effort to smile for the entire season!