Happier Holidays: 15 Ways to Bring Joy to Your Life This Holiday Season

By Michael Dangovian

November 30, 2017

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. But studies show that a lot of people experience acute depression during this season. Here are 15 ways to avoid being one of those statistics.

1. Choose Joy

Happiness is a choice. It’s not about what you don’t have. It’s all about what you do. There are third world countries that score far higher than we as Americans do on happiness indices. And there are a ton of depressed millionaires out there. It’s all about perspective. It’s all about choice.

2. Choose Foods that Honor Yourself

Your gut is filled with trillions of microbes. Eating whole, healthy foods feeds the beneficial parts of your microbiome. Eating terrible food feeds the bad parts. And research over the last decade has shown, time and time again, that your gut plays as much—if not more—of a role than your brain does when it comes to mood. Keep your gut happy and your mood will follow.

3. Give as Many Hugs as You Can

The data is in: People who engage with others in physically-positive ways are happy. And nothing says physically-positive more clearly than a big old bear hug!

4. Spread Happiness

Focusing on the happiness of others is a surefire way to boost your own mood. Isolation, especially during the holidays, is one of the main reasons that depression rates tend rise around this time of year. So, spread your joy… especially to those who seem like they need it the most.

5. Don’t Say Anything Negative for 24 Hours

This exercise is wonderful for boosting your happiness quotient. It also forces you to choose your words carefully and keeps you from spreading negativity to others.

6. Banish All Negative Thoughts for 24 Hours

Negative thoughts are going to happen. They just are. But you don’t have to allow them to linger. So, for 24 hours, when a negative thought pops up in your head, kick it out. Don’t let it put down roots.

7. Understand that Families Can be Stressful

The holidays are a time for family. Which can be wonderful. But, it can also be stressful. So, know that your family gatherings might bring up some tension—spoken or unspoken—in both yourself and others. Just being aware of this fact can go a long way in choosing your joy, no matter the circumstances this holiday season.

8. Search Out the Silver Lining

No matter what happens to you in life, you can find something positive in the situation. If you get into a fender bender, sure it’s annoying. It’s inconvenient. But you can be thankful that no one was hurt. You can use it as a moment to diffuse a stressful situation and be an inspiration to the other driver.

9. Recognize that Other People Find the Holidays Stressful

Again, this is an awareness issue. Even if you don’t get particularly down during the holiday season, others do. So, going into each moment of your day with this knowledge will allow you to show patience and empathy. And maybe brighten someone else’s day!

10. Volunteer

Get out of your routine this holiday season and help others. Soup kitchens, Salvation Army donation kettles, food drives… the opportunities are endless. The key is to be intentional about getting out of your rut and help the less fortunate in your community.

11. Find Your Holiday WHY

What do the holidays mean to you? Because, they aren’t about maxing out your credit cards, stressing over buying gifts for people who are probably going to return them anyway, and eating until your pants no longer fit. Finding your reason for the holiday season will put your mind in a place where happiness isn’t a hard choice.

12. Go to the Mall… But Not to Shop

Go to the mall (or anywhere people are shopping) and be intentional about spreading joy. I’m not suggesting anything radical here. A hello, a smile, a quick compliment… it doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day. And when you do, that light will shine back on you.

13. Understand What’s Being Marketed at You

Every commercial on TV and the internet this holiday season is a lie. That happy family attempting to shovel that huge pile of food past their fake smiles? Yeah, they don’t exist. We’ve been marketed a vision of the holidays that simply isn’t real. And many people feel like failures when they can’t live up to these false expectations. Understanding that it’s all a mirage designed to sell you cat food or a new vacuum cleaner takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders.

Happiness can happen when you no longer have to live up to an impossible ideal.

14. Focus on Connection

The holidays aren’t about food, gifts, and stress. So, don’t focus on those things. Instead, focus on connecting with the people in your life. Inspire them. Let them inspire you. Be real. Be vulnerable. Be kind.

15. Presence Over Presents

The best gift you can give someone this holiday season is to be present in the moment with them. Put down your phone and have a real conversation. That’s where real joy begins.

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