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Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? The holidays have come and gone, and the new year has arrived!
No matter what your religion may be, the holiday season can inspire feelings of joy, warm-heartedness and a sense of belonging. However for some people, this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety. According to a recent survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
… approximately 755 of overall respondents reported that the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied and 68% financially strained. 66% have experienced loneliness, 63% too much pressure and 57% unrealistic expectations. 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present, while 50% were unable to be with loved ones.
Sound familiar? If so, here are five ways to leave those holiday blues behind in the new year:
1. Practice self-compassion
With extra pressure and family expectations upon us at this time, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. Comparing yourself to others or trying to do everything can set you up for failure and resulting feelings of low self-worth. Pace yourself, take breaks and ask for help. Try to keep your schedule light and ease up on the perfectionism. When you are rested and happy you contribute your best self, which is all anyone ever really wants:
Guard your health above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23.
Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. – Christopher Germer, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion.
3. Be Grateful
Gratitude brings us back to a state where our attention centers on the good we already have in our lives. In a state of gratitude we can access clarity and true joy. This is a good time of year to count our blessings. Everyone has sorrows, but haven’t we learned and gained more compassion from them? Each situation in life is an opportunity to grow spiritually and thereby give thanks. As we are grateful we draw on an infinite source of abundance and bring more into our lives:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 107:1.
4. Enjoy the Present, Let Go of the Past, and Look Forward to the Future
It’s easy to focus on the negative, whether it be within ourselves, someone else, or the state of the world. But focusing on the negative brings more negativity. It is only by purposefully turning away from what we don’t want and focusing on what we do want that we make progress. Remaining trapped in regret keeps us powerless, but forgiving ourselves and others frees us to start fresh and live our best life:
5. Get Outside
Thoreau said “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Whether it’s a leisurely stroll with your family, or a sled ride down a snowy hill, exercise raises serotonin levels and boosts your mood. Getting together with family and friends connects us and eases the feelings of social isolation and depression. We are hard-wired to desire connection with each other, so expand the community that makes up your circle of friends. Go out window shopping, ice skating or just enjoy the winter weather with a friend, neighbor or loved one—or the summer weather, if you live south of the Equator. You may feel alone, but you are not. Many people find themselves alone to ring in the New Year when they didn’t necessarily have to be. Check out Google “meet-up” in your area for groups and activities that resonate with you.
6. Give Back
Giving back has a secret: we also benefit. During this time of year when loneliness may affect us, the most productive action is to forget ourselves and focus on those in need. You might consider volunteering at a local hospital, animal shelter or homeless shelter. My daughter always says she feels a sense of peace and fulfillment when she helps out at our local soup kitchen. You might help a neighbor by running an errand or sending over a meal. Just the selfless act of being of service will improve your mood:
This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise. – Ibid., p. 177.
Service to humanity is service to God. Let the love and light of the Kingdom radiate through you until all who look upon you shall be illumined by its reflection. Be as stars, brilliant and sparkling in the loftiness of their heavenly station. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8.
If we try to keep holiday plans to a minimum and let go of our unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others we can avoid disappointment. Taking care of ourselves by eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep and exercise will keep your serotonin levels high. Sharing our time with loving, positive people and practicing gratitude lifts our spirits. Above all else, service is the magnet that draws lasting joy and true happiness.
Wishing you a happy 2019!