Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

January 6, 2018

Are you experiencing post-holiday blues? Maybe visiting the relatives was unpleasant. Perhaps your gifts don’t look nearly as great as the ones your friends are posting online. Sometimes the frenzy to make the holidays fantastic for your family and friends will leave you feeling exhausted. Or you could be someone struggling with serious issues such as illness or loss of a loved one.

Often the let down after the holidays occurs when you imagine everyone else has had a wonderful time. Psychologists refer to this as “compare and despair”, which happens when you think “everyone else is happy – so there must be something wrong with me.”

This mindset causes you to maximize the impact of your problems and minimize the positive parts of your life. Distorting your thinking in this way leads to despair – losing hope that there’s any possibility that you’ll ever be happy.

But consider the statistics from the December 2017 AtmosFX survey about what made people unhappy during holidays:

  • 22% Being alone
  • 20.5% Holiday travel
  • 20% Holiday shopping
  • 9.9% Spending time with family

Now it’s New Year’s Eve, which actually makes anxiety and depression worse for many people who are sure everyone else will be attending a phenomenal party and establishing resolutions to give themselves a fantastic 2018. This “fear of missing out” is another distortion. A 2015 Washington Post article reported that 83% of people had a disappointing New Year’s celebration. And numerous studies show that 85% of New Year’s resolutions are never realized.

There are always positive and negative aspects of life that are coexisting. Importantly, there are many actions you can take to build and broaden those parts that will bring you more life satisfaction.

When the world around you is stressful, frustrating, or fearful, you can override your negative reactions by enhancing what is under your control. You can resolve to have a healthier body, a more optimistic mind, and an uplifting spirit. So instead of eating and drinking too much and waking up hung over and feeling downtrodden, what if you invite someone you care about to share a healthy meal and reminisce about the most satisfying events of 2017.

Instead of your mind being riveted on what’s wrong, you’ll be able to look at what’s right about your life. Recalling good times will warm your heart and refresh your memory about the types of activities you might want to engage in again.

Also, pay attention to what’s positive in the present. There are many aspects of life to be enjoyed by slowing yourself down and appreciating an experience: e.g. savoring meals, helping a friend, or playing music.

Studies show that happy people are able to produce a minimum of 3 times more positive than negative emotions within themselves. Paradoxically, people who generate a high level of inner satisfaction have the best relationships because they typically exude an aura of happiness.

To generate high levels of authentic happiness, ask what you can do to feel good physically, mentally and spiritually. Taking care of your body is the first factor to consider because you can’t fight your biology. When you put unhealthy foods into your body, it’s like putting bad gas into your car – it’s not going to work very well. Healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low fat meats fuel up your storehouses of energy – the mitochondria – in your cells.

In addition to eating well, exercising is an essential ingredient for feeling good. Exercise burns off the stress chemicals that your body generates when problems arise. Your body fires off fight-flight-freeze neurochemical reactions that can only be alleviated by exercise.

Happy people have been found to use two strategies to make themselves feel good when life gets hard. One is to be open to new and different experiences: taking off for a one-day adventure or walking through an art gallery. Their other strategy is to discover something new by taking classes, learning languages, and reading non-fiction books.

Take a break from your challenges by going out into nature and appreciating the beauty. This is a great way to nurture your spirit. When you put yourself in the presence of the higher power and you quiet your mind, you’ll be able to absorb the serenity that is surrounding you.

By refreshing your spirit, you’ll have energy for creating your future. Your spirit connects you to your most deeply held values, providing a powerful source of purpose, direction and motivation. What will be most valuable to you in 2018?

Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of the PROPEL Institute and author of PROPEL to Quality Healthcare: Six Steps to Improve Patient Care, Staff Engagement and the Bottom Line.

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As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has become a leading practitioner of positive psychology. He has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction. The PROPEL Principles empower healthcare professionals to apply six positive psychology principles – Passion, Relationships, Optimism, Proactivity, Energy, and Legacy – to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable results.

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