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Using Positive Psychology During the Holidays

December 27th, 2018


Managing Holiday Anxiety Using Positive Psychology

There’s a reason why the holidays are considered to be the most joyful time of the year. The holidays can be both an extremely fun and rewarding time. One of the reasons why the holidays can be viewed with such positivity is because of all the benefits we can gain from the holidays. Some of these benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Seeing family and friends we may not get to see often throughout the year
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
    • Even during the year when we may see friends and family, we may be so busy that we do not fully let loose and enjoy actual quality time with those we love and cherish
  • Time away from work
    • Many people get extended breaks and vacations away from their job and can use this as a time to separate from work and recharge their battery
  • Giving and receiving gifts
    • It can be very rewarding to give presents to loved ones and bring them some joy and happiness, likewise, it can be great to receive presents from those we love

Unfortunately, not everything that comes with the holidays is beneficial. Here are some things to look out for during the holidays that may not be so positive:

  • Stress from planning holiday meals
    • It can be stressful trying to feed large numbers of people (which often gather on holidays) and planning, preparing, and cooking large meals can be a source of stress for some people
  • Financial burdens
    • While getting gifts for others is fun and rewarding, it can be tough trying to manage purchasing presents and staying within one’s budget
  • Stress and anxiety from “special” people
    • Many people have a friend or family member that will be referred to as a “special” person in our life
    • This “special” person may do things to get under our skin, irritate, and cause stress and anxiety when around them
    • While it can be great to see friends and family, it is important to be prepared for those who we know what buttons to push to get us worked up

Therefore, there are good things that come from the holidays as well as some not-so-great things that may accompany the holidays. Knowing this fact helps prepare for these fun, but stressful, times that the holidays may bring. However, knowing is only part of the battle. Next, it would be most advantageous to have a plan of how to manage the stress and anxiety that may arise. Incorporating principles from positive psychology can be helpful to include in your plan to cope with any unpleasant emotions and thoughts you may experience.

Positive Psychology Defined

Positive psychology has several principles and tenets that make it an attractive framework to utilize during the holidays. This theoretical psychological orientation suggests that it is best to focus on the strengths of an individual and community as well as focusing on the good that occurs to improve well-being and quality of life. Instead of focusing on problems, dysfunction, and mental health issues, positive psychology highlights the characteristics that allow individuals to flourish, achieve success, and overcome difficulties and obstacles. There are a number of qualities and principles involved in positive psychology which include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Gratitude
  • Optimism
  • Mental Toughness
  • Resilience
  • Grit
Positive Psychology Defined

Utilizing Positive Psychology During the Holiday Season

Applying a positive psychology framework to work into a plan to combat the negative side of the holidays sounds like a great idea. But now the question you may be wondering is how. How do we do this? Below are some ways and examples of how to use positive psychology during the holidays to further enjoy the good times of the holidays and to cope with the stressors that the holidays can bring.

  • Enjoying the Rewards of the Holidays as Much as Possible
    • Stay in the moment!
      • Whatever you are doing – whether it is relaxing, preparing food, or wrapping gifts – stay in the present moment
      • Take time to realize what you are doing and why you are doing it
      • When spending time with friends and family do just that, spend time with them
        • It is easy to get sidetracked and start thinking about other things or to get lost on your cell phone mindlessly scrolling through social media
        • Do your best to stay in the present and soak up those moments that you are getting to share with loved ones
    • Be appreciative
      • It is easy to take things for granted during the holidays
        • Be appreciative of everything, both the big and the little things
      • Each day of life is an opportunity to be thankful
        • We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so enjoy time with those in your life and be appreciative of each moment you get to spend with them!
    • Persevere
      • Being resilient during stress can have big payoffs!
      • It may be stressful wrapping all those presents when you have other things you want or need to do but stick with it and when you are done you will have beautiful gifts to give to friends and family to show them that you have been thinking of them and appreciate them
      • Similarly, it may be tempting to give up on the cooking and cleaning and other chores that are involved with the holidays
        • By doing these tasks and seeing them through, we are providing for others (and for ourselves) during the holidays
        • It can be very rewarding to see the fruits of your labor in the kitchen when everyone is gathered around the table to enjoy food together
  • Navigating the Stressors of the Holidays
    • Realize Stress and Anxiety will Pass
      • Staying in the moment and realizing that every moment is new and different can help us realize that stress comes and goes and never lasts forever
    • Show Gratitude Even for the Negative
      • We may view spending our time in the kitchen cooking as a negative aspect of the holidays, but we can re-frame this thinking and replace the negative thoughts with thoughts of gratitude
      • For example, you could be thankful that you have loved ones that you can cook for
      • Simple changes in thinking from negative to positive (grateful) can go a long way in managing stressors
    • Be positive!
      • Even when things get tense and you feel anxiety building, there are usually silver linings that you can look for to keep your mood positive
      • Trying to find the optimistic viewpoint and spending your time thinking about the positive can allow for a shift in negative thinking and improve your mood

Enjoy the Holidays!

Utilizing Positive Psychology During the Holiday Season

Altogether, there can be a lot of emotions that take place during the holidays. We may feel jolly, light-hearted, carefree, and joyous as we get filled with the holiday spirit. While these are great emotions to experience, we will sometimes experience negative emotions such as stress, and anxiety during the holidays. It can be beneficial to use positive psychology techniques to help alleviate our mood during stressful moments and to get the most out of the joyous occasions the holidays may bring! Resources:

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