Eight Tips for Holiday Happiness

A recent Saturday Night Live skit revolved around a family of grown siblings gathered for Christmas Dinner.  Their interaction moved from the sharing of warm moments and singing carols to screaming tirades based on sibling “issues” from childhood.
The humor came out of human moments.  How many of us have a similar “love ‘em/can’t stand ‘em” relationship with parts of our family – one that surfaces when we are gathered for a shared meal or exchange of gifts?
The skit struck me as particularly relevant because I’ve had numerous conversations with friends and clients over the past couple weeks: adults in their mid-40’s who can’t seem to escape a relationship pattern that was established when they were teens; concerns over petty rivalries spoiling holiday gatherings; or discussing the dread they feel when they think about the holidays.
Hey, I’ve been there: I’m part of a big family.  On one side, “intimate” gatherings involve 40 people ranging in age from 1 to 73, while on the other side of the family we mix up blended families and second marriages.  Toss in a few crying babies and season with a sullen boyfriend who’s “bad for her,” and we are never at a loss for drama!
Are you one of those hoping to SURVIVE the holidays this year?  Perhaps these will help:
Eight Tips For Holiday Happiness
1.    Take a Breath, On Purpose. Breathing is the – let me repeat that, with more emphasis – THE most powerful tool you possess for helping you respond to stress-inducing situations.  When you take a breath – on purpose – deep into your body, you provide extra fuel to your brain (for quicker thinking), while you create an autonomic relaxation response in your body.  Try it right now (I’ll wait).
Ahhhhh…. Wasn’t that nice?  Now, practice that several times a day, every day, so your body knows how to do that when Uncle Harry reminds you – yet again – that your apricot roll will never be as good as Great-grandma’s <grrrr>.
2.    Step Back. When you find yourself at the edge of your nerves, take a step back.  Literally.  The physical act of pulling your body back helps your emotions also pull back from the edge.  From a calmer emotional space, you can de-escalate the situation.
3.    Keep Your Wits About You. If someone did or said that in the workplace, would you react the same way you do as when your mother does it?  If you’re like most people, you play by a more “professional” set of norms at work.  I suggest that if you bring your Work Wits to a family gathering, you’ll find it easier to respond appropriately, and then move on to the next conversation.
4.    Don’t “Play To Win.” A good conversation is about the exchange of ideas.  If you need to always Be Right – if your goal is to “win points” – you’ll be spending lots of your holiday time trying to convince others to change their “wrong” opinions.  Why?  Unless they live with you every day, who cares?  They’re your relatives, not your competitors on Survivor!
5.    Keep It Light. If you’re like many people, you will spend a good deal of time selecting an outfit to wear to each gathering.  While you’re in the closet, pull down that Smile you keep in a jar on the shelf.  And layer on a pleasant expression, while you’re at it.  If you arrive already tense and grouchy based on what happened last year, you’ll guarantee a tough time.  But show up in your best Smile, ready to laugh at cousin Ron’s (very lame) jokes, and you may just enjoy yourself!
6.    Let It Go. Yes, I know that cousin Judy really ticked you off by scheduling her wedding just two weeks before yours.  But come on – that was 13 years ago!  And are you EVER going to let go of resentment over what your little brother did to you when he was 17 and an idiot – before he got married and got responsible?  Remember that forgiveness is a very powerful emotion; it does not erase the past, but it gives you permission to not let what happened in the past drag you down in the present.  Let it go, and notice how much lighter and happier you feel.
7.    Hang Around With the Little Ones. When you arrive at a family gathering that involves kids, share some of it with them.  Chat with your teen-aged nieces and nephews and listen to their dreams.  Allow yourself to be relaxed and real with a giggly four-year old.  And while other people might engage in the drama, you’ll have a lot more fun laying on the floor and looking at the tree from underneath!
8.    It’s Not About The Gifts. Really.  It’s not.  You know that – I’m not telling you anything new.  I’m just reminding you to tap into the wisdom you already possess.  Focus on relationships and just being together.  Notice your blessings.  Maybe even convince the family to share something they are grateful for before you open all the pretty boxes.  Best Buy’s tagline is “You. Happier.” With all due respect, you can’t buy happiness in a box at an electronics store.
9.    Bonus Tip: Breathe. Yes, this is repeat of Tip #1 — it’s that powerful.  The word Inspiration (to breath in) means literally ‘to infuse with life/breath.’  When you notice something that’s about to suck away some of your happiness, inspire yourself with a gift of calm and extra oxygen.  Plus, there’s a bonus to taking a nice long breath in – you can’t talk!  And if you can’t talk, you make a better listener.  This is a pretty happy place to be!
The 13 Principles of Happiness provide more ideas for increasing your happiness, especially relevant in a world gone mad.
Why not download and post a 1-page summary of all 13 as a reminder?  You can do so here: https://theexecutivehappinesscoach.com/happiness/philosophies.cfm.  Take care of you.

1 thought on “Eight Tips for Holiday Happiness”

  1. Pingback: Tips to Reduce Your Stress During Job Search | Life With Happiness

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