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The Secret Ingredient to a Happy Holiday

Would you like the secret to actually having a happy holiday this year? To not spending significant amounts of time curled up on the floor drinking heavily spiked eggnog while hiding in a DIY wrapping paper fortress (although you can do some of that too, if that’s what you’re into)?

Lean in close…

“No”.

I’m not refusing to tell you, I’m saying that’s the secret. “No”. I understand that it’s easier to say “no” in a post than it is to say it out loud to your mamma or your kids, so here are a few tips:

1. Decide right now what the holidays actually mean to you.

Think about the kind of holiday that will make you happy now, before the onslaught of invitations and demands start rolling in. What is important to you this time of year? Spending time with family? Avoiding family and hanging out with friends? Your spiritual or religious practice? Figure out what is important to you and focus on that.

2. Prioritize

Realistically, you can’t say no to everything that doesn’t vibe with what you find most important during the holidays. So, once you do step one, prioritize those things. You may have a long list of things you love this time of year, but pick what you would be really disappointed to miss and make those your priority (even if it’s just having time to do nothing).

3. Compromise

If it was completely up to me, my holiday would consist of curling up on my couch with my cats and eating cookies. Actually, that’s pretty much what my life would consist of if I could get away with it. However, the happiness of those I love is also important to me, so I need to balance what I want with the things that are important to them. So, put on that ugly Christmas sweater and go to that party, but also schedule some downtime if that’s what you need.

4. Acknowledge your feelings

This is not the most wonderful time of the year for many people. Grief for those who are no longer here to celebrate, financial pressure, social anxiety and a plethora of other things can make the holidays miserable. Acknowledge the things that you are struggling with and allow yourself space for those feelings. It’s OK to be sad, or angry, or just hide for a little while (I wasn’t totally kidding about the wrapping paper fortress). Respect your limits and don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

5. Eat tasty treats.

Most of my family roots are in Scandinavia. Do you know what Scandinavian people love other than death metal and questionable dishes featuring rotten fish? Butter. One of my great grandmother’s most beloved Christmas cookie recipes is made with a literal pound of butter. Another is a cake, also made with a pound of butter, and then drizzled with butter sauce. Most cultures and families have decadent treats they trot out once a year. Allow yourself to enjoy these foods. Not only are they delicious, they also provide a link to the people you love who came before you.

Eat, drink, nap, and have yourself a merry little Christmas (or whatever else you may celebrate). Enjoy this time of year with those near and dear to you, and prepare for a wonderful new year.

Laura MitchellComment