How to Have a Happier Holiday
By Alison Blackman
“The Holidays” are Magical. Sure they are….if you’re a child. They can experience all the benefits and joy of the season, with none or the effort or responsibilities involved with pulling off “the most wonderful time of the year.“
But for many adults, misery costs for “making merry” are high. On top of that, you have to put on a happy face and look cheerful because it’s expected! Even the most gung “ho ho ho!” can be worn out by too many expectations,too many social obligations, and too much general stress.
Every year I write some version of a “how to servive the holidays” feature. This year I’m starting early, right after election day. I’m debunking the top “happy holiday” myths, and offering my 5 top tips to make things easier not just for the upcoming Winter holidays, but all year long!
Why Aren’t We Happy During the Holidays
The media is partially to blame:
It’s easy to feel that you’re missing out when every party on TV or in magazines who you glamorous soirees where the champagne and caviar flow and the black-tie guests are gorgeous in glittery gowns and jewels. But the parties you are invited to aren’t anything like that, so you might wonder “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I get invited to these events?”
On television, the families you see are always happy to be together. No one ever fights, every laughs and is up for games, telling jokes and laughing. But the reality is that most families can remember the quibbling and stress more than the Parchesi games they’ve played at the holidays. Your family experience might be happy and delightful –but probably not all the time.
The office party is actually fun, No one gets caught on Snapchat dancing like a spazz. No one gets so drunk they do regrettable things earing them dork of the year and the topic of office gossip for months to come. But the reality is that most people kind of dread the office party. It’s not really a party, it’s work and with the same people you just saw in the hallway an hour ago!
Everywhere you look you see holiday gifts are so amazing they’re gag-worthy (e.g. diamonds and luxury cars festooned with large red bows). You may wonder why your gifts our gifts (if you get any, are not usually this luxurious, probably more like fashion jewelry or shirts and sweaters, or things you already have in multiples (or worse, something obviously re-gifted).
Have a Holiday Reality Check:
We feel obligated to believe that “the holidays” must be relentlessly happy, “merry & bright.” But life isn’t happy all the time, so why should a holiday really be any different? Most holidays are 24-hours, a day..and then they’re o.v.e.r.
Don’t feel guilty if you want to primal scream hearing “Santa Baby for the 33rd time in a day. You’ve got plenty of compan…they are just afraid to scream out loud!
Family Matters, But What About Those Family Matters Issues?
Not everyone has fabulous holiday plans.
And getting there isn’t half the fun — that trek to “grandma’s”every year can really exhaust you so by the time you’ve arrived, being “social” is the last thing on your mind.
If there is more than one family involved, chances are there was a tug-of-war about who would host the event, what to serve, and who could be invited. Unrealistic demands can wear on your last nerve.
Unrealistic demands from family can wear on your last nerve.
Who Really Gets the Diamonds and the Car with the Big Bow?
The answer is: almost no one.
There is a famous department store that puts out a gorgeous, glossy “wish book” of gifts every year including impossibly amazing items such as dinner in outer space, diamond studded computers, chocolates covered in gold….
Perhaps a few people lose their minds and do by some of these things, but mostly these things are for gawking.
As to those tv commercials where people jump up and down in front of the new car with the huge bow, or the woman getting a big box with a tiara in it, that’s advertising and they are actors.
The actors looking awestruck at their incredible gifts probably get the same things you do, but maybe worse, like stuff from the sale bin, gifts or items from the bargain store, or that old standby — re-gifted.
5 Tips to Make the Holidays, Happier:
If you’ve read this so far and are thinking “wow, she’s such a Grinch,” fear not, I’m not a grinch, but I am a realist. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make the holidays happier. My 5 top tips don’t even cost a single penny. We’re so busy being “busy” that we forget about the good things the holidays bring. The real secret to a good time is adjusting your attitude.
Happy Holiday Tip #1: Party with people you really like (even if it’s just for chips and beer)
Those holiday parties that look so glamorous in magazines and on tv are often “command performances.” Trust me on this one, I’ve heard more than one of these glittery guest in the ladies room admit she can’t wait to get home, pull of her body shaper, and remove the fabulous stilettos that are torturing her.
Most of these guest would rather be eating take-out with the dog or chips and beer with their friends than champagne and caviar with people they couldn’t care less about. If you party with people you like, you don’t need caviar and champagne, all you need is love (and maybe some beer and wine).
Happy Holiday Tip #2 : Create A Happy Environment
Giant blow-up Santas may be cheesy, and not everyone celebrates Christmas. Still, it’s time to celebrate the end of the year.
Holiday décor doesn’t have to be lights and tinsel. Light a dark night with scented candles. Display holiday cards (if that’s your thing).
We like to dress up our space with apples and oranges (stick some cloves into those as they did in times gone by and you’ll naturally scent your room. It’s lovely! When it dries, you have a pomander.
If you’re really not into “holiday” at least clean up your home and maybe add a something new, like throw pillows or a fluffy throw for chilly nights.
Happy Holiday Tip #3: Give Your Holiday Gathering When It’s Convenient
There are too many parties too close together to really enjoy them in the last few weeks of the year. By the end of December no one wants to see more food or booze.
One solution is to party early and often, or schedule your gathering when it suits you, when there’s nothing going on and when it suits your schedule!
My tradition, for example, is to have a Thanksgiving not in November, but in March or April. We gather friends together for a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimming. There’s no fighting over whose house we have to go to because it isn’t the official holiday. Besides, it’s fun!
If you can’t be with friends and family during the actual holiday. Host a holiday party in advance of all the others (now, for Christmas). Take lots of photos. It you feel a bit lonely” you’ll be reminded that the holidays will soon be over and family and friends will be back soon.
Happy Holiday Tip #4 Be an Optimist. Really, Things Could Be Worse
Being miserable is a choice if you don’t have anything really serious to be miserable about.
This is, of course, unless you are truly clinically, chronically depressed or have issues that deserve serious sadness. In that case you get a “pass” but then please seek professional help and I’m not pointing a finger.
If these things don’t describe you, only you can choose to continue to feel unhappy.
Things could be worse so consider:
If you have a job, you’re lucky. The holidays are prime time for people to be fired. If that hasn’t happened you’re already better off,
If you don’t have a special love don’t let it bring you down. There are lots of ladies in love hoping for “that ring” whose relationships are dashed when they don’t get it. Couples break up (usually last minute before they have to go to a family gathering or lose those airplane tickets to Tahiti).
Feeling lonely because you’re not with family? Think back on the stress that never took a break until you packed up and left. Maybe these are all reasons to enjoy a bit of solitude this year. A lot of people wish they could be in your shoes.
Happy Holiday Tip #5: Each Day Brings Good Things –Little Joys
Being reasonably satisfied and sane is fine. But appreciating little joys make life easier and more fun.
Little joys are everywhere. Re-connecting with someone, delighting in the first snow of the season, sharing a laugh with your friends at your own holiday gathering. You can add so many more of your own.
Let little irritations go. So the next time you hear Santa Baby, The Little Drummer Boy, Jingle Bells, or whatever song irritates you the most, just relax into it and hum along (by now you know the words). Imagine how much more irritating it is to the people in the shops that have to listen to this for hours and hours without relief.
That is what the season is about. And make this season your best ever.
*if you have tips you’d like to share, please do it in our comments section or tweet them @advicesisters. Please share this feature on social media — you might do someone who is feeling sad and thinks s/he is the only one, a BIG favor.