Question: What can I do to stay positive during the holidays? The Holidays for me is not a happy time of year and I have fallen victim to depression during this time of year. Any tips to stay positive.

Most people are hopeful that the Holiday Season will be merry and bright. However, as the end of the year approaches, it is common for conflicting emotions to arise for many people. The seasonal focus on cheerful celebration and togetherness can be a trigger for people who don’t feel cheerful or feel like celebrating, especially for those who are lonely and isolated. A byproduct of our consumeristic holiday season is the overwhelming sense people experience of not having enough: enough money to buy the gifts they want to give, enough friends with whom celebrate, or enough time to slow down and enjoy the season. At this time of the year, people are easily frazzled and overwhelmed. Being frazzled and overwhelmed are unpleasant feelings for everyone.

During the holiday season, despite the emphasis on goodwill and cheer, people tend to focus on the negatives they perceive in their world. It is easy for people to become self-critical, and to feel emotionally depleted. Their inner dialogue often turns from commenting on the magic of the season to focusing on what they think is missing from their lives. This leads to the reinforcement of dark feeling of unhappiness and loneliness.  These sad feelings are easily reinforced by pictures they see posted online, where people look festive and happy and are celebrating together.  People feel left out, and then dwell on not feeling included. This leads to ruminating about how they don’t feel happy or want to celebrate anything. This cycle, no matter the time of year, is depressing.

If you are struggling, try to remind yourself, that some of the most meaningful magic of the holidays is best expressed through giving to others. The holidays are often more enjoyable and feel better, when people give thanks, and focus on other people. When the focus is on other people, everyone benefits.  The statement that it is better to give than to receive can be a motto for getting through the Holidays.  No matter what people have to give, everyone can share the gift of grace, grace to themselves, and grace to others.

The concept of giving grace can be described as being willing to show up authentically, with an open heart and an open mind, and to be present to what is experienced at the moment.

The idea of giving grace is to better people’s’ lives.  Focus on bettering the lives of everyone you meet, including your own life. This can be done through giving material items, by sharing your time with people, or by being patient when people are rushing, by offering a smile to a stranger, by sharing a compliment, or through the simple act of noticing another person and offering recognition of their existence. By focusing on how to better other people’s’ lives, you might experience the holiday season in a different and more meaningful way, and you might enjoy the holiday season more than you expected.

The gift of grace is kindness, both in inward and outward expression.

Answered by Amy Vail, Psy.D, a practicing psychologist in the North Lake Tahoe area. To connect with Dr. Vail, please click here.

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