We hear so much about holiday stress that it can be easy to lose sight of what the holidays really should be: fun, joyful, and a little big magical.
So how can we capture the excitement? One way is to think of holiday preparation as fun — something to be enjoyed as much as the actual holidays themselves.
Preparation is about more than just planning and scheduling. It's also about getting our spirits ready and open to the joy that's possible, then creating that joy (for ourselves and others) through our actions.
Looking forward to something fun — and getting caught up in preparing for it — is where good feelings begin. Expecting good things puts us in a happy, excited mood. And when we feel happy and excited, we can actually create the good experiences we want.
It's easy for positive emotions to build and grow. That's one reason why the holiday spirit is so contagious. When one person is happy, it can lift the spirits of others. They in turn pass this happiness on, and it all keeps going like a game of happy tag. It's no surprise that people say they wish the holiday mood could continue all year.
Being in a spectacularly great mood doesn't mean there has to be a spectacular event to look forward to. In fact, it's often the simple things that are the most meaningful and create the most joy for people.
So what mood do you want to create this holiday? Is it one of joy and fun? Peace and love? Giving and sharing? It's time to think about what might make a special holiday season for you, your family, and friends.
Start preparing as the season approaches. Play your favorite music to get in the holiday spirit. Decorate in some special way. Are there things you like to have in your room, your home, or maybe a piece of clothing that's become your own personal "holiday tradition"?
When you're in the spirit, start thinking about activities that get the people you know in a holiday mood. Plan to spread out these activities over the coming weeks.
To create feelings of joy or happiness, you might want to plan activities that make people laugh, such as a White Elephant gift swap, or give them a chance to sing, like a caroling expedition.
Another feeling that captures the spirit of the holidays is love. Put some real love into your giving by making your own gifts. Holiday traditions of giving and sharing don't have to mean presents, of course. Small kindnesses bring hope, comfort, and happiness to others, whether it's donating toys for less fortunate kids or being good company for elderly people.
Maybe you want to strengthen feelings of spirituality and peace. Attending services or observing religious customs at home can help you feel more connected to your spiritual side.
Taking part in traditions, visiting people, caring for others, creating surprises, and planning or attending parties and get-togethers are all ways to share the spirit and joy of the holidays. Happiness is contagious and it multiplies. The more joy you give to others, the more joy you feel.
Preparing for the holidays can help you to learn about yourself. It's a chance to get in touch with what makes you feel happy and fulfilled; to learn which things put you in a great mood. It's also an opportunity to see how a good mood affects your actions and outlook. Are you smiling more? Being just a little kinder to your kid brother or sister? Complaining less about homework and minor everyday hassles?
It's no fun if you're the only one expecting good things from the holidays — so get the people around you into the spirit too. Is someone in your family prone to the holiday blues? What can you do to invite that person to join in your preparations in a sensitive, gentle way that lifts the person's spirits?
It doesn't matter which holiday you celebrate. Creating a positive mood for yourself and making good things happen as a result applies to any situation. So create your own holiday tradition: preparing to feel joyful and fulfilled.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013
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