I was rereading Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home recently. In it, she talks about how even when everything is going well in her life, she still catches herself in negative thought patterns—begrudging her husband for not unloading the dishwasher, wishing her daughters would quiet down while playing, dreading going out for fear of the traffic. She talks about how simply becoming aware of those thoughts, this negative mindset, and then purposefully working to combat them helped her make changes and live a life of gratitude.
I know that the holidays can be overwhelming, but I want you to look back on this season and feel a sense of joy and wonder—something that is hard to do given the year we’ve all had.
Here are a few ways to choose joy:
Fake it ‘til you make it.
Okay. You’re not exactly feeling it this holiday season. It’s cold. Traffic is bad. Your best friend just moved away. I get it. Sometimes Christmas comes at a time when you’re just not feeling Christmasy! But that means it’s especially important to turn up the Christmas music, break out the garlands, light that balsam and fir candle. Sometimes the best way to get out of a negative thought pattern is to just embrace the good. Remind yourself that people are just people, like you. Psychologists agree that physically acting in a way that counteracts your negative thinking pattern works.
Create boundaries for yourself.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but boundaries are having a major moment (one scroll through my Instagram feed confirms it.) I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to use boundaries this holiday season in a way that feels loving and kind, not harsh. I think we often talk about how boundaries relate to other people, but when it comes to reframing negative thinking, one of the most loving things you can do for yourself is to create boundaries that give you more space—physically and emotionally.
For instance, I already know that I am as introverted as they come, and holidays don’t necessarily offer me the physical space I crave. Making sure I have a few hours carved out of a busy day to take a nap, do some yoga, read, whatever, is a surefire way that I can make sure I do not get caught in a cycle of negativity. When we ignore what we know we need, it creates a space in our minds for negativity to breed.
Be of service.
It’s hard to think about what’s lacking when I’m focused on what I can give to others. The next time you’re not exactly jazzed for something, make some homemade cookies or pick up a big bouquet of flowers. One thing my mom always taught me growing up is that “Beauty begets beauty.” When I offer up something beautiful (whether it’s something material like flowers, or sharing words of positivity like, “Your house smells so good!”) it lets your mind and body know to relax and enjoy.
One way this can tangibly show up is to go out of your way to do an act of kindness—start the Pay It Forward line at Starbucks, offer to walk your neighbors’ dog, drop off a coffee at your sisters’. Getting outside yourself is the best way to get in the holiday spirit.
I’d like to add that if this is not your favorite time of year, that’s okay too. But it’s important to remember that you don’t have to stay stuck in negativity.
You can acknowledge those feelings, feel some softness for yourself, and go do something you DO love. Whatever headspace you’re in this season, we’re sending you love and light.
This post was originally published on December 23, 2019, and has since been updated.