Always Well Within

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How To Be Happy Even Though It’s the Holidays

flowers in the snow

Isn’t it ironic that so much depression occurs around the holidays – theoretically the time of joy and goodwill?  Not to mention all out, over the top stress.  And dread –  the feeling you just have to hold on tight and make it through to the New Year.

We’re so tuned into meeting everyone’s expectations, demands, wishes, and requests, we hardly take time to consider what we truly want.

You can have a happy holiday, but it means being fully honest with yourself.  Take some time to ask yourself these questions.  Let your imagination run freely. Give your most candid answers:

  • What kind of holiday would you really like to have?
  • What would you eliminate if you “could”?
  • What would you add if you “could”?
  • What holds you back from having the holiday you would like to have?
  • What’s one step you could take today towards the holiday you truly want?

Happiness – to a great degree – is about being mindful and making choices.  You will be faced with countless decision points this holiday season.  Will you respond on automatic or as expected till you are burned up and dried out?

Or, will you pause each time and ask:

  • “Is this what I really want to do?”
  • “Will it be too much for me?”
  • “How will I feel tomorrow?”
  • “Will it cost too much?”
  • “Will it put me in debt?”
  • “Will it endanger myself or others?”

Will you notice resistance as it manifests in your body:  tightening muscles, a furrowed brow, words caught in your throat that can’t quite come out?

You could even open the door to entirely new possibilities by taking a risk and asking family or friends, “Can we do the holidays a little differently this year?”  You could inquire:  “Could we skip gifts, alcohol, a tree, sweets, or [fill in the blanks].

And, you don’t have to change it all around this holiday season if that feels like too much. Make one important change this year and another one next year.

Its’ all up to you.

I know it’s not necessarily easy, but it gets easier once you take your first step.   If you find it difficult to say no to others, read my primer on saying yes to you.

You have a choice.  Give yourself the gift of the holiday you truly want and deserve.  Whatever that looks like for you.

Do you feel pressured to meet other people’s expectations during the holidays?  Are the holidays a time of happiness or stress for you?  Have you made positive changes to your holiday routine?

Thank you so much for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love,  Sandra



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  1. So funny, stumbled upon your post, when I was thinking about happiness. Thank you for the great post! God bless, Jenny

    • Welcome Jennifer,

      Now that’s beautiful serendipity! I’m happy the post resonated for you. May you be well, happy, and safe!

  2. I love this post … and love the last 6 questions. Those are great questions to ask ourselves at any time of year … for any decisions or choices we have to make. It somehow puts everything into perspective! Thank you!

    • Hi Small Footprints!

      Thank you! It was one of those posts that just struck me in the moment and flowed out. The title especially. I was thinking of a friend who was bracing herself for the holidays and lamenting all the stress to come. This is a really good point, how those questions apply across all situations. I’m glad it put things in perspective for you. Wishing you well!

  3. Beautiful 🙂 May we absorb the meaning and feel of your message and apply it every day 🙂

    • Thank you, Joy! If we could apply this message all the time, it would be a happier world. Of course, I think it’s fine to sacrifice ourselves sometimes for others but it depends on doing it consciously with an enlightened understanding and view. Much love to you!

  4. So true!! When my kids were little, I pulled out all the stops for the holidays. My house was lit up with so many lights I’m surprised we didn’t burn down the neighborhood. Decorations were everywhere. We had a big party every year. I loved it.

    But as they reached adulthood and they weren’t as eager to participate, my own interest waned. When I found myself doing all the decorating by myself as the kids sat around doing other things, I realized that I was not enjoying myself. So I stopped. I told the kids we would have whatever decorations they put up themselves. Guess what–we didn’t have any! Well, only stockings. I let the party go, too. And it was all fine. I was a bit sad, but that was better than feeling resentful and pressured.

    Now I am relaxed heading into the holidays. I will do as much as is meaningful to all of us and let the rest go. Thanks for your sane wisdom, as always!

    • Galen,

      This is the simple key! Tuning into yourself. What a shining example. Naturally, it can be a little hard to let go of what we’ve become accustomed to expect, but you made the transition gracefully. Acknowledging your emotions but also letting go. Ta-da! Beautiful!

  5. On a snowy winter’s night, a year after we married my hubby and I returned from what would be our last obligatory holiday visit. We made some hot spiced wine and we talked about how we wanted to spend our future winter holidays and who we wanted to spend them with.

    Since that time we have chose to celebrate Winter Solstice with friends who also choose to celebrate that auspicious annual event. Together we have developed our own traditions, yet every Winter Solstice has been different from the last. As we have aged our circle of friends has both expanded and contracted as some have been born, raised and left. Some have even returned with little ones of their own.

    We are grateful we had the courage it took to talk about what was right for us on that snowy night. When we rejected going through the obligatory motions that the illegitimate marriage of commercialism and religiosity gave rise to, we set ourselves free to celebrate the season of goodwill. That freedom gave rise to many creative ideas for enjoying Winter Solstice, which is, of course, the true reason for the season, regardless of what those who hijacked it proclaim.

    • timethief,

      This is a beautiful description of your process and an inspiration for those wanting but wondering if they could make such a shift. I appreciate how you developed your own traditions emerging from what really matters to you, the way you have unleashed your creativity to truly enjoy the season, and how each season has been different from the last.

      Thanks for lighting the way!

  6. I just released a breath of relief. Thank you dear Sandra.

  7. Thank you for this thought provoking post encouraging us to make different, conscious choices about what will actually make the holidays happier.

    Since my children have not lived with me for the last five years, my decorating and baking for the holidays has dwindled to almost nothing. Like Joy above, I realized that I did not like going to all the trouble.

    I did more than usual last year because my brother came from out of state to visit during the holidays. This year, I had planned to do no decorating and asked my sons if they would mind. The youngest, while he is 15, said that he wants it. The other, who is 18, said he does not care.

    So, I will indulge my son and do some, and it does make me want to do more knowing that it does matter to him.

    I wish we could do away with the gift giving altogether. I abhor this practice, but the older generation clings to it. I have given donations to charity in people’s name as gifts, but that went over like a lead brick.

    • Hi Debbie,

      It can be tricky finding the right balance especially at the holidays. It’s great that you are willing to ask and explore alternatives but also be flexible at the same time.

      I feel it’s fine to compromise and do things to make other people happy even if they aren’t what we prefer ourselves. But I think there are a few keys that make a difference in how this feels to us, which is choosing consciously, acting with our full heart, and not feeling resentment about it. If the process creates more negative emotions for me then I find it’s not healthy for me or the other person. I still exchange gifts with a few people because I know it’s meaningful for them.

      I wish you a beautiful time with your sons!

  8. jean sampson

    Hi Sandra—-It surely is difficult for me to be as extroverted during the Holidays as people want me to be! Usually, the introvert and extrovert within my personality are pretty well-balanced. However, during the winter season, I feel the desire of my introverted self to avoid parties and people and seek the shelter of my cave where I can think and read and write poems. It is a little tricky because I am in a VERY public art center where the public is welcomed into our studios while we are working. I really do like that arrangement , but sometimes, especially in winter, I want my cave!

    • I love your clarity! I hope you get as much time in your cave as you desire. Thanks for sharing this perspective because the seasons of the year also have an effect on our being.

  9. A couple of years ago, my family talked about what we really enjoyed during the holidays and turns out it was being together doing special things. And so now we really try to focus on doing as much of that as possible and not worrying so much about spending money on gifts that are just things we don’t need. It’s made the holidays much happier.

    • So simple! So perfect! So beautiful! I’m glad you all came together and found the best way for your family. Thanks for sharing this. It’s an inspiration for all of us.

  10. This was validating.
    I put up the yard decorations … only I did what I wanted this time – my snowman in a tropical shirt, wineglass in hand, shades on… and a pumpkin snowman buddy with him (I hated to throw out my Halloween pumpkins! I just carved them!)
    So, now I’m That Neighbor…

    I also have skipped the tree decorations this year. Lights and one angel are lovely enough, thank you.

    I know what gets to me: clutter. I have beautiful things, but too much. So, this year I only brought out my favorites, and skipped the tree decor. Red & green clash with my interior’s scheme anyway. By the 26th, I’m anxious and ready to start putting the mess away. January, I’m breathing a sigh of relief.

    Well, I decided to breathe all through December this time.

    Loved this!

    • Your yard decorations sound delightful! I enjoyed reading how you are adapting your holiday decorating toward what is fun for you. What’s so great about red and green anyway? Clutter gets me down too. It seems like you are getting a great handle on it. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your approach to the season.

  11. The year-end holiday season always brings a bag of mixed emotions for me. So I could be feeling happy, sad, stressed, and melancholic from day to day. However, over the years, I have been learning to embrace these all and work through them.

    And yes, this year, I decided not to go abroad for a holiday. It will be a change. Oddly enough, I am ok with not traveling. I don’t need to be elsewhere to have a great month. With the shift, I believe that I am being more present.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, Sandra! It sure got me reflecting. May I take the opportunity to wish you much love and joy!

    • Evelyn,

      I admire your willingness to embrace whatever unfolds. The emotions are just passing phenomena, nothing to get overly excited about once we get that, huh? Of course, that takes a bit of time! I hope you have a pleasant time at home this time around. Thank you for your good wishes. I send you lots of love and aloha.

  12. This article presents an approach that is both mindful and Socratic (analysis through asking the proper questions). It would have been very useful for me, had I not also solved this before.

    Actually, it was solved for Mary and I at the same time. We hit the burnout point on “obligatory Christmas” in 2000. During 2001, I had this vague notion that reading a lot of Dickens and going to London for Christmas would help change our attitude. Music is our chief joy, and it’s everywhere in London at that season. Because the arts are more generously tax-supported in the UK, even symphony orchestra concerts are inexpensive. We could have spent the entire time seeing free events. As it was, we found somewhere to participate in singing each day for two whole weeks, sometimes more than once a day. It did the trick.

    So now we concentrate on our enjoyment of music, and share that with friends and family at every opportunity in this season. I haven’t experienced “holiday blues” since that trip.

    • That’s a wonderful solution! I know you love music and singing and it makes so much sense to place these activities at the heart of your holiday season. There are an abundance of creative solutions and we just need to find the one that fits for us! Bravo!

  13. I like! It sucks to feel obligated to do something you don’t really want. I haven’t even begun considering christmas gifts yet, but we have like a week to go.. yikes! I like to make special little gifts and share them with everyone, and sometimes I make a little mini gift bag. This year I just feel like I want it to be done already though! So much hectic energy, and life is busy enough as it is! I’m sitting on how to claim it for myself.

    • Hi Satya,

      You seem pretty clear! I’m sure the right solution will emerge for you as you sit with this. Looks like simple will win this year! Love to you!

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