For many, the holiday season is a joyous time, but for some folks it can be a hard season to get through.
If you Google "holiday depression" or better still "beating holiday depression" you'll find lots of top 10 lists. Most of the ideas on my list below appear on one or more of the lists you'll find online. But they've also appeared in my life. They're tried and proven. They're real. They work.
1. Be grateful. Research at Harvard, and at major universities in Florida, Texas and California is beginning to prove the mental, emotional and even physical benefits of taking some time each day to be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal. Write a thank you note. Thanks someone mentally. It's a great way to protect your natural joy.
2. Serve. Choose one of the many service opportunities all communities offer. Volunteer at your church. Ring a Salvation Army bell. Volunteer at a Veterans Hospital. Be a story reader at your local library or elementary school. Serving others is a sure fire way to forget yourself. That always feels good.
3. Be still. If you search online, you'll find that one of the chief causes of holiday depression is a lack of stillness. Silent nights are hard to find. So be purposeful about finding stillness. Find a quiet spot and make time (even just 5-10 minutes) each day to just be quiet. Pray, meditate, relax, take some deep breaths.
4. Simplify. As shopping, food preparation and travel intensify, things can get tangled up. You can take control here. Simplify your menus. A calm host/hostess is a better gift than a sumptuous meal. Set some reasonable limits on gifts. This year each member of our extended family has been assigned one person for whom they buy one gift, under $20. Simple.
5. Reach out. Although it may have many different causes, holiday depression has a common antidote. Look out instead of in. This can seem devilishly hard to do. But thinking outward, thinking of what other people need instead of what we lack is a joy creator, while thinking of ourselves promotes depression. Again, you can be purposeful here. Make a list of people you've been out of touch with and send them a holiday greeting. Think about who in your community is needier than you. Our church discovered recently that 1 in 6 children from a local elementary school were from homeless families. We contacted the school and agreed to have our Sunday School kids work to provide backpacks with school supplies at the beginning of the year and snack packs during the rest of the year. It's hard to feel sad when you're packing bags for homeless kids.
So as the holidays approach, challenging rather than accepting holiday depression is a healthy choice. Find your own ways to keep the season joyful. Share them with friends. Look outward and upward. It works.