Pandemic Holiday Happiness

Cartoon faces of all different colors wearing masks for pandemic holiday happiness.

I began this blog 18 years ago, in November 2002, before social media was even a thing. I started the dance with 100 subscribers and over the first two years I slowly unpacked The 13 Principles of Happiness that were central to my work at that time. While my focus has expanded and shifted and gone global over the years, the foundation remains unchanged.

So here we are, ~250 days into a pandemic quarantine where I live, and our holiday season is right around the corner. We’ve had the “hard conversations” about doing our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays via Zoom, and it turned out not so hard – my mom and father-in-law (85 and 91, respectively) were the first to jump aboard the “no hugging and sharing COVID” bandwagon!

The ease with which we are adapting to tiny turkeys and virtual gatherings has reminded me how easy it can be to reconnect with happiness and joy once we open up to new ideas and unleash our creative energy!

To celebrate their 18th Anniversary, I’ve adapted The 13 Principles for use during Pandemic times. I hope you enjoy the review and the reminder that

Happiness is a Decision, not an Event!

 Apply The 13 Principles of Happiness to your Pandemic Quarantine Holidays

Principle 1: Become Positively Self-ish

When you take care of yourself first, you build a foundation for stronger relationships with others, and increase your capacity.

[Remember to ENJOY the holiday. Even if you’ve had to compromise on and reinvent everything about your gathering, make sure you are feeding your own soul. First, pause to appreciate the amazing, creative, resilient person you are to have adapted your family traditions or embraced new ones. Circle on the calendar when your “verymostfavorite” holiday special airs on TV and protect that time from all other obligations. If you normally cherish your post-dinner chats with Auntie Shay, set up a private call with her instead the week ahead. Do something for YOU, that brings you joy.]

Principle 2: Live Your Values

Clearly identify and proclaim your personal values through the way you live and work.

[Now’s the time to bring what you say and what you do into alignment. Family is a value? Creativity? Find creative ways to spend time with those you love. Health? Wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay away from the cream cheese dip. Community? Donate money or physically-distanced time to those in need. You get the idea: take an action that honors one of your values.]

Principle 3: Live for Life, not Stuff

Let go of possessions, roles, lifestyles that others and a marketing-hyped society impose on you; focus instead on what truly brings you Joy.

[Pandemic lockdowns have reminded us that BEING WITH others is way more important than where we took them for lunch or exchanged for gifts last year. Remember that gift giving is not a competition.]

Principle 4: Be Early

Whether it is project deadlines, appointments, or learning opportunities, get there before you are expected, and watch your stress load decrease exponentially.

[Start making your plans now so you don’t get crowded out. Do any online shopping early so that you can relax and enjoy the holiday without fretting about late delivery. And this year, if you must go out, get to Costco or the mall when it opens and there are fewer people milling about!]

Principle 5: Build Reserves

Identify what worries you, and work to create extra in your life, whether that is money, personal space, or extra toilet paper in the cabinet.

[OK, so toilet paper and hand sanitizer really did worry you. And if being alone freaks you out, work your calendar to have virtual dates with those you love. Identify something that caused you anxiety in 2020 (admittedly a long list!); before year-end, create a plan to end it or change it next year.]

Principle 6: Tolerate Nothing

Continually identify and eliminate all the little “stuff” which causes you friction and drains your energy.

[Much of work-from-home and home-school in early ’20 was arranged hastily and with whatever you had in the house. If those workarounds continue, notice what’s not working and find a few ways to up your game. Buy or free-cycle a second-hand REAL desk for you or your kid(s) to work. Use the money you saved not eating out every day to gift yourself with a decent chair. Make requests of your employer for a better laptop. Give yourself permission to say NO to a few meetings you can’t see value in. Establishing new boundaries can make all the difference between insanity and satisfaction.]

Principle 7: Choose to Respond

What happens is going to happen, regardless. Accept constant, discontinuous change as reality and instead of reacting, respond with curiosity.

[No matter how well you plan, things will NOT work as you envisioned. Stuff happens, even more so at the holidays. Take a deep breath — a REALLY deep breath – and notice if you’re holding on to an old story. Then let go of needing to control every situation or have it be like it was. Ask, what CAN we do?]

Principle 8: Stimulate Your Development

Surround yourself with environments and people that continually challenge you, energize you, and literally pull you forward. Have adventures.

[There will never be a better time to establish new traditions than in a year when you’re forced to adapt anyway. What if you approach the next few months as an adventure looking to unfold? What’s available to you when you dance with new challenges rather than feel crushed by them?]

Principle 9: Pay Attention

When we are on autopilot, life just happens around us. Look. Listen. Notice. The sunset in your own backyard can be just as wondrous as the one at the beach.

[Mindfulness is a life practice that seems to have been invented for times like these. Do some things more deliberately, attending to every detail. If you decorate for a holiday, spread it out over an entire week, remembering the history of each mantel decoration or ornament. Whether you share turkey with a small group or have a Cornish Hen in your own kitchen, slow down and savor every bite, reveling in your senses. When you have conversations, sit back and listen – really listen – and enjoy others’ company in a new way.]

Principle 10: Simplify

Automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks or goals that complicate your life. Being content with simpler pleasures increases your opportunity for awe.

[As you work on New Year’s resolutions or goals, consider streamlining. Choose just one powerful goal and focus all your energy on it. You are far more likely to achieve success! And when it comes to crowds and rushing, two words: online shopping. Yes, even your local small businesses can and gladly will deliver!]

Principle 11: Speak the Truth

Stop playing games. Recognize that though the truth may sometimes sting, it is the starting place for all progress. Challenge others to see the truth.

[Consider one relationship or situation in your life that is draining you. Resolve to take the action that you’ve been postponing for years using “busy-ness” as an excuse. Notice how much energy is freed up for other things in your life.]

Principle 12: Focus on Today

Waiting for something to happen “tomorrow” in order for you to be happy is like watching yourself in the mirror and saying, “You go first.”

[Give yourself permission to be happy, even if you’ve not met your goals, even if your life is not perfect (which it is not and never will be). There’s nothing stopping you from pausing to say, “This, here, right now… this is nice.”]

Principle 13: Be Authentic

Be yourself, not somebody else. When the Real You shows up, connections are easy.

[Remind yourself that you are loved – by YOU – and give yourself a hug for the holiday – whatever you celebrate!]

Coming from fear or scarcity will lose every time to leading, parenting, partnering, or conversing from a place of wonder, awe, and creative compassion. So, remember:

Leadership is not about a title. Anyone can be a leader who embraces reality and focuses on what CAN work instead of what won’t or can’t.


Post or share this frameable copy of The 13 Principles of Happiness on your refrigerator or WFH desk to remind you that every day, you have options.