When the holidays are filled with parties, singing, gift-giving and celebrating, it seems that we should be especially joyous. Yet instead we feel lonely, down, disconnected and even cynical about the season. Why is this? I believe there are three primary reasons why the holidays are hard for so many. I also believe there are three easy ways to turn things around before the season is over.
- The first reason we feel a little “off” during the holidays is because we have expectations of how we “should” feel. We “should” feel happy, we “should” feel connected and full of holiday cheer, but we don’t. We may not feel any different than we do at other times of the year, but because during the holidays we are “supposed” to feel a certain way, we start doubting the way we do feel. We may not be particularly sad, but because we feel pressure to be in good spirits and we’re not, we feel as though there is something wrong with us. You may start to wonder “what’s wrong with me? Why am I not happier?” You then start to look around and see others at the party laughing and hugging and you begin to feel like you are somehow missing the boat. They are having fun and you aren’t.There’s no faster way to become unhappy then to compare yourself with others! You’ll almost always come up short in some way. You then think you aren’t as good as others because you aren’t having the fun they’re having. That negative feeling then spirals into a feeling that you don’t belong there and should go home. It’s easy to feel like a misfit, an awkward sore thumb. That feeling only makes us more miserable and before we know it we’re so uncomfortable that we need a drink or another piece of cake to make the pain go away!
Solution: See Christmas, Chanukah or New Year’s Eve as just another day. Try to release your expectations of how you should feel or how much fun you should be having. Don’t worry if you’re not laughing as hard as Santa Claus! Just be yourself and treat the day like any other day. Be as cheerful as you can, don’t worry about what others are doing or how much fun they seem to be having, and focus on the simple pleasures around you. Give a hug to a relative who looks like she may be feeling a bit down, herself; pay a compliment to someone who took a lot of effort to dress up for the occasion; be kind and thoughtful wherever there’s an opportunity. Enjoy the day without passing judgment on how you’re enjoying the day. At the end of the day you’ll feel like you had a nice day…nothing more, nothing less, which is a lot!
- The second reason the holidays may be a little lackluster for you is because during the time when family and friends are connecting you may be aware of the lack of connection in your own life. When you and others are busy in the daily grind, not having close connections with people may not seem like a problem, or even be something you’re conscious of. But when the season of sharing and caring comes around, and you don’t feel like you have anyone to really share with, or you realize you’re having a hard time feeling connected to the ones you are sharing with, it can be a very lonely experience.Solution: This is a good time of year to take stock of your life, including your relationships. Are your friendships superficial and unfulfilling? Do you have people you can talk with at an intimate, personal level? Or are your times with friends mostly spent gossiping and griping about what’s not right in your life or the world around you? If you are not connecting at the heart level, it’s time to make some changes. No one can survive on surface relationships alone. We must all have at least one person we can share honestly with, if not several. Take action now to make 2012 a time when you start reaching out for real connection that can comfort and support you.
- The third reason the holidays may be a little sad for you is because holidays are a time that we are especially reminded of people we miss. It may be someone who has passed away or people we cannot be with during this holiday season. We may be reminded of relationships that have ended or that we wish would start. These feelings of sadness and grief can certainly put a damper on things and prompt us to seek solace in extra eggnog and champagne!Solution: It’s important to acknowledge feelings of grief and sadness by writing about it in a journal, discussing your pain with a friend or clergy, and even having a good, long cry. But after you’ve done some emoting, try to think of how you can forge some new friendships with people in the here and now. Focus on bringing some holiday cheer to someone who may also be missing a loved one and your spirits are sure to turn around. Say a prayer for the ones you miss and then do your best to enjoy the company of others around you. Don’t wait for your phone to ring—pick it up and reach out to others now. It’s not too late to have a “happy holiday”.