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5 Tips from Positive Psychology to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

5 Tips from Positive Psychology to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

Are your holidays filled with relaxation and quality time with family or are you resorting to drinking a little too much eggnog to make it through?. If you are, you are not alone. In fact, 90 percent of Americans who completed a survey indicated that they feel stress during the holidays and 24 percent experience difficulty with family members. If you’re looking for ways to reduce holiday stress and create warm memories with your family, follow these five tips from positive psychology and bring the magic back to the holiday season.

Let Go of The Past and Stay Present

Just like in the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” sometimes we are haunted by the ghosts of Christmases past. We tell ourselves that because our mom has always been critical or our dad always brings up politics and religion that they will this time too. We prep ourselves for the discomfort this has caused in the past which makes us brace for this holiday. Instead try wiping clean the slates of past transgressions, arguments, tears and discomfort. Sometimes letting go seems more difficult because we think that by not holding on to anger, hurt or frustration we are somehow condoning the past. When you let go something or forgive someone, you aren’t saying that everything was okay, you are just saying that it cannot hurt you anymore. Be like a first time visitor to your own family. Be curious, open-minded and look for the good in people’s words and actions. Martin Seligman ,the founding father of positive psychology, recommends breaking habituation, savoring experiences and using mindfulness as ways to increase happiness in the present.

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Focus on The Positive

Instead of focusing on the really bad meal you are served year after year, try being impressed the beautiful holiday decor or the great after dinner drinks.. Be a detective finding the good things that are going on around you. Neuroscientists have studied the brain and discovered that as you practice looking for positive  your brain actually becomes more adept at finding other positive events. Our neurotransmitters are like wire covered in plastic coating, but in our brain that coating is the myelin sheath. The more times a particular neuropathway is used, the thicker the myelin sheath becomes and this , like a well-developed muscle, strengthens your positive mindset. So when heading home for the holidays try finding something positive in each moment. Eventually this will be come less of a task and more of your brain’s default mode.

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Practice Gratitude

University of Pennsylvania did a study in 2005 that proved one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude we show. At Thanksgiving we all pay attention to things we are grateful for. Why not try including a little gratitude at every family gathering? Having each family member state one thing they are thankful for has become a part of my family’s holiday meal tradition. You can also adopt a daily gratitude pracice like journaling 3 things each day your are grateful for. This effective method is proven to decrease stress and increase subjective well-being (aka happiness).

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Keep Your Usual Routine

Gretchen Rubin, author of My Happiness Project and Better Than Before has researched how our habits make us happier. Her advise over the holiday season? Stick to your habits. This means, if you are an early riser, continue to get up early even if you are surrounded by night owls who like to sleep in. If you exercise regularly, you need that exercise for mood balancing endorphins. Don’t skip the work out and then wonder why you are so cranky. Staying on a sleep, exercise and eating routine that works for you will keep you balanced. This doesn’t mean not to indulge in a treat or try something outside your normal pattern, it simply means that creatures of habits are comforted by those habits! Not only will this help you to avoid holiday stress, it will also make the transition back to work or home an easier one when the holiday is over.

Give Presence not Presents

San Francisco State University did a study that demonstrated that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased greater well-being than material possessions. This means that giving gifts doesn’t make you as happy as sharing experiences. Part of the human happiness equation is our need for social connectedness. Instead of buying clothes, chocolates or candles, try taking everyone ice skating or on a sleigh ride instead.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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