As the Holiday Season comes around, rarely does the celebrations occur without the infamous greeting of “Happy Holidays” exclaimed, heard in song and written on cards, banners and gift packages. It inspires feelings of warmth, joy and belonging that supports the excitement and celebration in the air. Yet, there are also those who feel contrary, some dread the very same holidays, in short, “tis’ the season” is not enjoyed by all.
In fact, the holidays can stir up feelings of depression, stress and anxiety. These emotions can surface and intensify during the holidays for a variety of reasons, such as, unresolved grief, negative associations with past trauma, seasonal depression and isolation.
These negative associations can cause people to not celebrate the holidays and some may even avoid acknowledging them altogether. Instead of experiencing the gitty-ness of creating traditions and making plans to bringing family and friends together, these individuals are lost in a sea of memories they wish they could forget. Their joy is suffocated with despair, tortured with memories of conflict and/or haunted by shame and guilt. These negative ramifications from their past can leave them in a place of loneliness and isolation or what’s been termed as the ‘holiday blues.’
As a result, before I discuss the three keys toward creating happy holidays, it’s good to note the underlying possibilities for the holiday blues.
The American Psychological Association’s survey about the feelings surrounding the holidays, particularly the blues report that even individuals who reported feelings of happiness, love and high spirits also expressed increased stress, anxiety and depression particularly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In fact, their survey showed that thirty-eight percent stated the increase of stress was directly due to the upcoming holidays.
Despite the lack of documented research or systemic reviews, emotions do get stirred up during these holiday months that bring up depression and anxiety. And the best medicine is to talk about it. One thing the holidays do provide is the opportunity to be around others, usually the presence of family, friends and others is greater around the holiday season. Although the stressors and triggers are greater, the actual suicide rate is down. According to the information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), November, December and January have some of the lowest suicide rates, (annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org). Although, this is good news, the depression spike is present and need not be minimized. I believe the rate is down because loved ones are around and activates keep the body busy.
Yet if we are present and look to the state of our loved ones, speak up if we are struggling, this sharing becomes foundational for the Holiday joy to rise out of the blues.
We have a prefect blueprint in how to apply the 3 keys for a happy holiday from Dr Seuss, author of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, in which Cindy Lou and the Whos of Who-ville taught principles that made their Christmas a happy one no matter what possessions they had or hadn’t.
As Dr. Seuss wrote,
“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all May have been that his heart was two sizes too small,”
As we can see The Grinch is alone. Possibly his isolation of his 53 years inhibited his ability to know anything but loneliness. To establish a connection, we must begin with were we are at, then seek to connect with one person. This step to personal vulnerability can seem big, yet it takes the first step from where you start at, one engagement with one person, one moment at a time.
For the Grinch, his introduction to kindness started with a two-year-old, name Cindy-Lou Who. Despite, being caught in the moment of his dark act, this interaction dissipates his isolation and opens the way for bonding. Her mere greeting was all it took.
“When he heard a small sound like a coo of a dove. He turned around fast, as he saw a small Who! Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.
We are made to connect with one another, a smile and hello can break the isolation and dissipate any sense of loneliness. Once we extend a little kindness toward someone, we open the way for the momentum to continue forward.
2- Self Responsibility
The Grinch lived on his mountain, seething with rage over the Whos in the village below celebrating their Christmas. Their happiness only fed his anger, until finally he couldn’t take it anymore and hatched a plan of deception to steal away their joy.
The Grinch’s disposition may well have come from his unfinished business of negative experiences of the past. His reasoning for his resentments where contrived and projected on the Whos from Who-ville. This displacement of feelings, along with is diabolical plan, was meant to create a relief of his misery. This was not what happened as we know, rather, the Grinch discovered his acts had no impact on the feelings of the Whos at all nor did it provide any relief for himself.
Start where you are at, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Yet in today’s world we are too often asked to reflect on the “yesterday’s”, especially, surrounding the past tragedies, harbored resentments and the justified wrong doings. Yet as with The Grinch, doing so only sucks the life out of your soul. That is, your heart may shrink two sizes too small.
One of the greatest miracles we, humans have at our disposal is a new sun rising every morning, gifting us with a new start. As you choose to take accountability of your life and how you desire to celebrate it with each breath, you too can have a similar epiphany as The Grinch,
“Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, Was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”
Stopping and choosing to be aware for your feelings and seeking to understand the origin from the inside out versus the outside in will guide you to where to find resolution. This takes consistent practice and effort toward making time for reflection. Meditation and mindfulness exercises provide opportunity for clarity for healing your pain, letting go of what was and what you have no control over and learning to live for today.
“And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?… “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
“And what happened then…? Well…in Who-ville they say That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
Once the Grinch listened from his heart, his primary desire was to give. In this case, he made the choice to give back what was taken, and for you, to give, possibly from the kindness of the heart.
This is the magic of the holidays. As you show a little kindness from the purest of intent, seizing the opportunity to serve, the heart can begin to mend. The moment is filled, one new memory after another with loving acts. It is these loving actions that create new beginnings by medicated despair, adding new clarity and refinement from past trauma and filling the void from the loss and carrying the love forward.
These three keys—kindness, self-responsibility and service offer a refined and renewed purpose of the holidays. This turns the blues of the holidays into laughter and giggles, engaging the momentum of bonding and loving to be the healing balm of the soul.
And just as the The Grinch “…HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beef!” You too can beat those blues and BE the happy of the Holidays.
And so I leave you with this message from the love of my heart, “Happy Holidays!”