‘Tis the season to be jolly – and also stressed out. If you’re feeling irritable, rushed, resentful, lonely, or overwhelmed, keep these strategies in mind to help boost your happiness:
1. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major disturber of people’s moods. Jet lag, traveling, parties, and over‐excited children all make it hard to get your usual number of hours. Making an effort to get to bed at a decent hour really pays off. Power napping (20 min) helps, too.
2. Exercise. Studies show that one of the quickest and surest ways to boost your mood is to exercise. If you’re away from home and can’t do your usual routine, even a short walk will help. Even better, exercise outside, where the sunlight will help improve your mood and focus.
3. Stay in control of your eating. Guilt about holiday binging can be a major source of the blues. Snack in moderation. Choose holiday treats wisely.
4. Take your time; plan ahead. Hurrying to pack, rushing through stores, sprinting to make a flight – these are sure to put you in a bad mood. Try to give yourself extra time to do what you need to do.
5. Learn from the past. What has made you unhappy? Think back. Avoid your triggers. Stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the mall, stay away from Uncle Billy – sometimes there’s a weird triumphant satisfaction in getting worked up, yet again, by a particular situation. Refrain from drama. Set limits.
6. Make time for real fun. Sometimes holiday vacations, which are supposed to be fun, are actually a huge hassle. Figure out ways to have fun. Maybe your family could choose to reduce gift‐giving and each draw names of a gift recipient. Also, include time for things YOU like to do: going to a movie, taking a nap while everyone else goes skating, going to the gym.
7. Manage yourself! If you sulk, snap, tease, or shirk, you’re not going to feel happy. It may feel good, but only for a moment. Then you’re going to feel bad. Instead, try to help out, bite your tongue, clean up, or run to the store. Look for opportunities to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” or “This is fine,” or “What should I be doing?” Do good, feel good—this really works! The way we act shapes the way we feel, so if you act in an affectionate, thoughtful way, you’ll feel more affectionate and thoughtful.
8. Fill your heart with gratitude. If you’re heading into a difficult situation, take a moment to fill your heart with gratitude and appreciation. Think of all the reasons that you’re grateful to your family and friends, and the happy memories you’ve shared, and how things might look from other perspectives. This can be hard to do, but it will make you happier. And if you’re happy, you’re better able to make other people happy.
Holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, love, and fun — and we can’t bicker, complain, and nag our way there. Figure out what YOU need to do to keep a holiday spirit. What stresses you out during the holidays? Consider what you can do to keep yourself feeling calm and light‐hearted.