American Thanksgiving generally signals the start of the festive season and a month-long round of parties, dinners, lunch and general festivities – all the way up to the New Year.
But what if you’re one of the many people who faces this time of year with a feeling of dread? For those who have lost loved ones, or been through divorce – or other traumas – the sight of Christmas decorations can send them spinning into a deep depression and leave them wanting to hide under the bedcovers until mid-January.
If you’re one of these people (and in all honesty, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for the majority of us) we have rounded up some wellness tips to help you have your best December yet, and, to help you really enjoy it.
Practice one good thing: Experts say it takes thirty days for your brain to develop a new habit (or to ditch an old one) and for it to really take hold psychologically. How about seeing December as a wonderful opportunity to change something you haven’t been happy with for some time? “If your diet isn’t as healthy as you would like you could promise yourself to have one healthy meal every single day all through December,” wellness coach Sophia Hall tells Lumity. “You could start the day with a green juice so you know you’re giving yourself all the nutrients you need, or you could promise yourself to have a superfood soup for dinner. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, if you promise yourself that you’ll have one good thing a day it’s far easier to stick to.”
Make exercising easy: Your “one good thing” doesn’t have to be food-related: “Perhaps you have been meaning to start exercising,” Sophia adds. “Set your alarm an hour earlier all through December and go to the gym, or do an online workout. One of my clients hates all kinds of exercise but she went out and bought an exercise bike and managed to do 10kms of cycling per day while watching the morning news. It took her 45 minutes at first, but then she got it down to just over half an hour, then she would shower and her workout would be done before she had really even woken up. She started to crave that time for herself every morning and having the endorphins helped her to think more clearly. In four weeks she lost 4 kilos, which is just over 8lbs, because she was burning 650 calories while watching TV. That was her one good thing, but you can make it anything you like – the key to lasting change is keeping it simple.”
Instead of expensive gifts try “IOUs”: To some extent, the materialism of the festive season is one of the major factors that gets people down at this time of year. Buying gifts ends up being expensive, which in turn leads to financial stress and, worse – the January blues once you get your bank statement in the New Year. Instead of splashing out, try giving loved ones “IOUs” suggests Sophia. “One of my clients was very strained financially last year so gave everyone on her Christmas list a hand-drawn card with an ‘I owe you’ in it. She was really creative and gave one friend a weekend of babysitting, which enabled her to have her first trip away with her husband in several years, or she promised to make other friends lunch and so on. She called her sister way in advance of Christmas Day and asked if it would be alright if they didn’t give each other gifts this year. Her sister immediately said yes as it was one thing less for her to worry about as well. Another hack is to buy gifts in the New Year sales and explain in advance that’s what you’re doing to save money – people, and even small children, don’t mind as it gives them something extra to look forward to in early January.”
Plan happy things: Days out don’t necessarily have to be expensive, “if you’re down plan a long hike with a good friend in the countryside, book a massage or even set time aside for a home spa day where you pamper and treat yourself,” Sophia says. “It’s very easy to stay home watching television for days at a time during the festive season but in fact that will probably make you feel worse, rather than better. If you can make a series of dates with yourself to do go out and do things you’ll look forward to December will fly by.”
Do a social media detox: If the festive season makes you feel negative then Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are only going to exaggerate those feelings so now’s a good time to delete those apps from your phone. Emma Kenny, the psychologist behind the brilliantly clever website MakeYourSwitch, tells Lumity that she believes social media is bad for us psychologically, “I’m a massive advocate of social media detoxes and believe that social media is bad for us because it’s normalising things which aren’t real,” she says – pointing to the fact that people see a small, curated snapshot of other peoples’ lives and compare it to their own and find it lacking. Emma adds that even leaving your phone at home every Sunday can make a big difference to your happiness levels – so that two-week period while everyone is off work during the latter half of December could be the ideal time to start learning to switch off, and avoid feeling saddened by a constant stream of photos from people online giving Mary Poppins a run for her money.
Keep a gratitude diary: If you’re overwhelmed by negativity at this time of year, then writing down every single thing in your life that you DO like can help you see the bigger picture. If you get into the habit of doing it every evening, it can help you work out where your true passions lie, and resolve issues like career choices and even what you want from your love life. “If you jot down every single thing that happened in your day that made you happy, or that you’re thankful for, you’re more likely to go to sleep feeling happy and fulfilled,” explains Sophia. “You may get a moment of clarity that leads to a job change that becomes your true passion, or perhaps you’ll make some New Year resolutions that you go on to keep. The key thing to remember is that if you’re feeling depressed, or fed up, there is help available – from traditional to alternative therapies. Perhaps sit down and make appointments with professionals, sometimes just taking positive action can lift feelings of hopelessness. Happiness is a choice and often writing down and focusing on the things that make you happy, rather than the things that make you sad, often helps you to remember that.”
How do you feel about the festive season? Love it, or loathe it? – let us know in the comments and remember, if you’re struggling for gift ideas then Lumity makes the perfect present for everyone…