Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

How to Be Happy During the Holidays

Flowers in the Snow

I hope you’ll have the holiday you truly want and deserve.  So I’m sharing a post I wrote last year that asks you to pause now – before all the frenzy begins – to consider what it is you truly want.

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 now before the chaos overcomes you.  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?
  • How will you make time for yourself over the holidays?
  • What’s one step you could take today towards the holiday you truly want?

Happiness – to a great degree – requires making mindful 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 might 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. I’ve bravely stated that I would not be decorating the tree this year. 🙂
    And I’m planning of taking a lot of mindful breaks. Thank you for a useful post!

    • That’s big, Maryse! I’m so happy for you. Enjoy your mindful breaks. And just remember, even if you lose the thread of mindfulness, you can just pick it up again when you remember. Wishing you love, peace, and joy.

  2. I really love this post! I have decided that the only decoration I will put up is the tree. I love decorating the tree, but putting up (and taking down) all the other decorations was becoming a chore. Most of the time I am at peace with this decision, but every so often I feel this twinge of fear that it won’t be Christmas and my boys will be disappointed if I don’t put up everything… seriously where do we get these daft ideas?!

    • Sharon,

      I’m impressed by how you’ve already simplified your Christmas and are able to enjoy it so much more as a result. I think it’s normal that those twinges of guilt will come up at times. It’s just the old patterns and I love that you can consider them daft!

  3. Sharon, we should split the work. 🙂 I love putting up the other decorations but not the tree. We get daft ideas because we’ve been brought up to be good girls, always doing what’s expected. Here’s to a mindful holiday season!

  4. Great advice, Sandra. I’ve really been scaling back on the holidays gradually over the years, because I’ve realized that what I value about them is simply spending time with my two or three closest family members, just having a quiet day, exchanging a couple of thoughtful gifts, and having a nice meal. Everything else just seems like hassle now, so I don’t do it. There’s no law requiring it, after all.

    Oh, and my boyfriend is Jewish, so we throw in a little of that too. But just a little – he’s not that religious. I had to make him get a menorah, in fact, since he didn’t even have one. 🙂

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I find it so beautiful that you focus the day on connection! You’re right, there’s no law requiring that we go crazy at the holidays. It’s nice you can share some of your boyfriend’s tradition without go wild there either.

  5. Jean Sampson

    Well, I have not done a lot of anything for the holidays for quite awhile except get together with friends for a lunch or dinner out. I only get and give a few gifts and they are usually meaningful homemade things like earrings or small paintings. One thing the art center does is have a Holiday Open House the 1st Sat of Dec. I turn my entire studio into a kids (of all aged) coloring center with 3 big tables and lots of places for both kids and adults to sit and color little Christmas pictures that look just like pages from a coloring book. Of course, I include a menorah which is one of the most popular pictures! I look forward to it every year and I enjoy the heck out of it! This year I bought a Santa hat with antlers and ornaments to wear for the day!

    • Hi Jean,

      So happy to see you back online! My track pad isn’t working properly so I may be the next one to take a little time away. Although I can use my husband’s computer.

      I love how you turn your studio into a kids coloring center and all the joy you seem to get from it. Bravo! That’s a wonderful way to have fun and celebrate.

  6. I suggested last year that we give up on gifts and have a family experience instead – maybe a weekend away, a climbing adventure or a theme park outing. No one was impressed so I carried on with the gifts.

    But each year I am giving them less gifts while hopefully giving them more time. That’s my goal 🙂

    I think holidays are less stressful here than in the UK as we just have a barbie and meet friends on the beach. I shudder to think how the hols would pan out if we were all inside and had to cook a crazy big complicated meal! It must be more mellow in Hawaii too – I hope so 🙂

    • Hi Annabel,

      Your kids are still relatively young, aren’t they? I can understand that it’s harder for younger kids to give up on the idea of gifts. I know how excited I was about gifts as a child. Those family experiences sound enticing to me, but I guess the kids are not quite there yet. I don’t know how Leo Babauta manages to skip the gifts with his family. Even though I know it’s not about the gifts, I imagine that could be hard for kids.

      I like your strategy of gradually introducing less gifts and more time together. That seems smart.

      I’m glad the holidays aren’t so stressful in Australia. There are many different cultures in Hawai’i; some celebrate Christmas and some don’t. Some people really deck out the outside of their homes, but that’s less common and does seem a bit strange even if we are on the rainy side of the island. Everyone’s different! But, we keep Christmas very simple. No decorations, just some nice time with friends.

  7. Hi Sandra…I am already enjoying my holidays. For me, holidays time is bonding time, meeting old friends, renewing the ties, chatting for long hours with my near and dear ones and just relax….time just stops! and we move at our own pace, without looking at the clock. All I do is eat, meet, chat and chat….its real fun!!

    I don’t believe in going too far to fulfil the expectations of others. Happiness lies in doing things in your own way and I just follow my heart. There was a time when we followed a hectic schedule to live up to our dreams and fulfil all the wishes of people around us but time has come to enjoy life as it comes, in the company of my dearest, little grand daughter, who must be looking forward to my return!
    Wishing you the happiest of Holidays!

    • I’m so happy for you, Balroop. Connection and bonding seems the source of such joy for you and I couldn’t be more delighted that you find it so much fun. It’s wonderful to see a hectic schedule and expectations are a thing of the past in your world. Have a lovely time with your grand daughter!

    • Yes, they’re 15, 12 and just turned 9 🙂 I think Xmas is more fun when you’re a kid and someone else is running the show. My challenge is to make sure we all have fun!

  8. Perfect timing as all the stores fill up with Christmas products and the TV is full of ads about getting a jump start on shopping. Like others who have commented, I have simplified in recent years. When the kids were young, it was fun to decorate everything with lights and glittery decorations. Now I’ve passed the torch. The kids all have their own homes, and I’m glad for them to come get whatever decorations they want out of the attic! I’m going to settle in and try to stay out of the chaos.

    • Hi Galen,

      I’m lucky as I rarely go to stores or watch TV so I miss all the frenzy and fuss. I do exchange gifts with one sister, but that’s all. We don’t decorate, but we usually enjoy visiting friends for a nice meal.

      I’m glad you are able to settle in and try to stay out of the chaos!

  9. hi Sandra – it’s hard to enjoy the holidays as we want it because of the many many social expectations fueled by commercialism in America. Between food companies, retailers and the bottom line for many corporations, it is a challenge to stay out of the fray. Being more conscious about the holidays and asking some of those questions you mentioned will help us do more of what we want to do and less of what we get swept up to do. And purchase less stuff that we don’t need either.

    I’m looking forward to a quieter and more reflective holiday.

    • You’re absolutely right, Vishnu. There’s so much pressure to consume in America. I’m glad more people are becoming aware and learning to simplify their lives! Wishing you the perfect holiday with all the quiet and reflection you deserve.

  10. Hi Sandra. Useful article. I always enjoy the holidays as i want. Because happiness will not come from outside or others. It should come from within us. If we feel ourself happy, our surrounding will be like that.

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