Dec 04, 2020
Ways to Invite JOY into this Holiday Season
The holidays can be both a high point in the year and a low point. The rituals and traditions that nourish the magic of this season sometimes highlight losses and changes as well. In this extraordinary year, there is even more opportunity to experience that whole range of emotions and responses. In the face of all the things that may be out of your control, here are some suggestions for how to invite joy into the present moment.
Just taking deep breaths can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system if you are experiencing anxiety, anger, sadness, or frustration. You can sit quietly and just feel the air coming in and out. You can breathe in through your nose, and then out through your mouth. You can try three or four quick breaths in, and then three or four quick breaths out, to energize your mind and body. You can sit with one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly to feel four or five breaths enter and leave your body.
Use activity to help negative emotions move through your body and out. You can go outside and get some fresh air, you can try games or sports, you can dance, you can use a stationary bike or treadmill, or you can try classes from YouTube or social media. How you move is less important than just moving and getting your heart, lungs, and muscles working. Bringing your heart rate up will release endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones.
How you fuel your body does make an impact on what you feel. There are foods that create a dopamine response, and give you momentary pleasure, but then the moment is gone and you’re looking for the next one. If you nourish your body with what it needs, you will find you have more energy and fewer cravings. Focus on drinking plenty of water and including colorful vegetables and healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil in your meals.
Take the time and space you need to feel your emotions and to set your intentions. Journaling can help you work through difficult times by getting things out of your head, through your hand, and onto the paper. Having some quiet space to start and end your day, and to recalibrate throughout your day, allows you to intentionally respond to situations rather than to simply react. Take the time to check in with yourself.
Embrace doing things because they are fun and you enjoy them! This can be playing games, being creative, or exploring hobbies. When children play, they are completely immersed in the joy of the moment. This state of complete engagement and interest, when you lose track of time, is known as flow, and it is a deeply satisfying experience. Look for ways to be playful, and if you have or know children, take them up on their offers to play and learn from them. Think about what things brought you joy as a child, and try them again.
Finding a way to be still and present, and to give up your worries, helps make room for you to experience joy. Worry takes away your strength for tomorrow, so instead of putting energy into that form of negative prayer, shift your focus to seeing the places where you can take action and learning to set the rest down.
A daily gratitude practice goes a long way toward shifting your focus from the negative to the positive. Even in the midst of everything going on, you can be grateful for the air moving into your lungs, for the earth beneath your feet, for the sun coming through the window. A gratitude practice can be choosing something to be thankful for before you get out of bed in the morning, listing three things to be thankful for in your journal, or having each family member state something they are thankful for at the dinner table. You can make a short list and keep it on you for those times that you need a quick pick-me-up. You can write and send thank-you notes for kindnesses past and present.
Music brings joy and offers connection in a unique way. It is a way to tap into emotions and share an experience. Singing and dancing are accessible to everyone, at every time, and take no skills or preparation. Because it is good for mind, body, and soul, music has long been an important part of culture, tradition, and healing. You can try singing along with musicals, singing old hymns, singing nursery rhymes, sea chanteys, and carols, or just belting it out to the local radio station. Singing is a way to encourage bonding and social cohesion and to release endorphins and calm your nervous system. There are no drawbacks and no side effects (laughter will just add to the benefits)!
No matter where you’re at, or what you’re going through, you can embrace the joy that finds you. None of these things take a lot of time, training, or energy. They are quick, and so simple that you may doubt they can work, but they do. Choose one thing to try every day this week. If you’d like more support to build the foundations of health in your life, please reach out. There are resources available at drtracikiernan.com.