Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk
The holidays are here, and they bring with them an abundance of twinkle lights, parties, cookies, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?
Yes. For some lucky people.
Perhaps this line from the Dr. Seuss’ book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a more accurate depiction of how you feel about Christmas: “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!” The Grinch’s comments refer to his feelings for the Whos, and it quite accurately describes his feeling about the holidays.
Do you have an inner-Grinch who comes out this time of year?
Despite the festivities, the holidays bring sadness for many. Feelings of grief and loneliness may rise to the surface. For me, this time of year reminds me of the loss I’ve experienced over the years. I miss my deceased father every holiday season, and I feel sadness about my failed marriage.
A bit of sadness surfaces for me as well as our home is no longer filled with excited-for-Christmas children. But I still hang lights inside and outside the house. I put up a small tree for my husband and me. I hang stockings. I send out Christmas cards with a short year-in-brief note. I bake cookies.
I do this for ME! It gives my heart joy. No sadness necessary for wonderful past memories. I must stay in the moment and be grateful for them and this moment present in front of my nose. I lack for nothing. I am grateful. I am humble.
But you don’t have to stay stuck in sadness during the holiday sadness. Here are some simple tips to help you stay less Grinch-y and more positive this holiday season.
Self-compassion meditations and simple practices can help you gracefully navigate sadness and grief. By remembering the three main pillars of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness), you can stay attuned to your suffering with more grace and ease.
For me self-compassion and meditations both bring me back to this present moment. In this present moment I don’t have to pick up a drink or drug. That wasn’t always the case. I would be hanging up Christmas lights in a snow storm on a metal ladder. Year after year. Stupid. Drunk. I would bake cookies, wrap gifts and decorate the inside of the house to all hours of the night. Year after year. Drunk. High. I would black out and then pass out while opening gifts. Sick. Sad.
No more. Today I have a choice to not pick up a drink or a drug. For that and Alcoholics Anonymous I am truly grateful and truly humble. I can practice self-compassion and love myself for who and what I am…today…one day at a time.
Research indicates that a daily or weekly gratitude practice enhances overall well-being, and a simple gratitude practice can take just five minutes or less of your time each day.
At the end of the day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Instead of the normal responses like my health and family, ratchet up the practice by looking back on your day and picking out specific highlights. For example, you could write, “I am grateful for the lunch and laughs I shared with my co-workers. We ate outside and enjoyed the crisp air and sunshine.”
I start my day and end my day in bed, duh. Before getting out of bed to face the day I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God, a God of My Own Understanding to whom I was introduced working the 12 Steps of AA. Don’t get me wrong. I am not promoting AA. I am promoting YOU and your well-being. There are many support groups in your neck of the woods that can help walk you through whatever ails you. AA was introduced to me in rehab and they loved me until I could love myself. Find your tribe!
Before falling asleep I again deeply connect with my Higher Power so thankful for his driving me around throughout the day while I enjoyed the passenger seat. I got to meet new people, experience new adventures, all without having to be in control or affect the outcome. Everything turned out perfectly!
3. Cultivate Joy
The human brain focuses on the negative, which means you need to intentionally cultivate more positivity in your life. It’s referred to as the brain’s negativity bias and research suggests that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in order to flourish.
It seems like the older I get the harder it is to muster up any energy. So when I do scoop up a pile or two of energy, I choose to use it in a positive way. I remember how exhausting it was to live a life in active alcoholism, having to drink everyday, but more exhausting was the guilt, shame, hiding, lying and cheating. That negative shit took all the energy I had and I had nothing left for me, let alone joy.
One way to add more positivity is through self-affirmation. Take time each day to think of things you appreciate about yourself. A gratitude practice also infuses your day with positivity.
One thing we did in rehab was to make up an affirmation and recite it to the group every morning for 28 days. I chose, “I am a good person. I am a whole person.” At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole. I was a piece of shit wasting space on the planet with no purpose.
But reciting this affirmation has helped me tremendously to get back in the moment, to remember where I am today and how I got here. As I peeled the layers of the onion skin off of myself I realized that I do, indeed, have a purpose. To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my Dee Bubble. Those who are going through tough times, whether from addictions, abuses, or just too much on their plates.
Today I am able to use my tough times to help me stay grounded, grateful and humble. I needed those tough times to bring me to this calmness and lightness in my life. So I share with you that you are not alone on your journey. And that everything is perfect right now. Just go in faith and not fear. Live from your heart and not your head.
4. Minimize Social Media Consumption
If you’re regularly (obsessively?) checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds, try to bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Do you notice sadness, uneasiness, or any tightness? Your mind might be comparing your life to the lives you see online. Since most people only highlight their best moments on social media, you are most likely not getting the full picture of someone’s life. Comparing your normal, flawed life to one that appears to be perfect is a recipe for sadness.
Try putting your phone down more often and staying off of social media. Notice if any of your feelings shift.
I use social media mostly to promote my business. But getting on Facebook or Instagram draws me in to life outside my Bubble. I experience everyone’s journeys and get to be a part of. I get joy from these long-distance interactions.
I no longer need to compare my journey with yours as I know now that we are all alike with both good times and hard times. I finally feel good enough in my own skin that I don’t need to impress you. I have my own gifts as you have yours. And sharing our gifts with one another makes the world a better place.
5. Find a Holiday Accountability Buddy
Do you know someone else who has experienced loss or has a tough time during the holidays? If so, reach out to that person and see if you can lean on each other every day. Send this person a quick text once a day to check in, and he or she can do the same for you.
You might want to use this accountability as a way to start or enhance your daily gratitude practice.
In AA it was suggested I get a sponsor, someone I trust, with whom I can share my journey and who could walk me through the 12 Steps of AA. So I did and she has helped me to grow in ways far beyond my wildest dreams. She is my accountability buddy, not just during the holidays, but everyday!
And when she is unavailable I have the fellowship of AA to nurture, protect and teach me. I am never alone, nor are YOU! Find like-minded people for your tribe to help you through the holidays and to enrich your life.
6. Take Deep Breaths
If a formal meditation practice isn’t your style, you can experiment with a brief breathing practice to help you bring awareness to the moment and calm yourself. Research shows that by taking a big, slow, deep inhale, and then exhaling slowly, you can calm your body’s response to stress.
We all experience holding our breath in that fight or flight situation. But why am I not taking deep breaths in calm situations? If you’re like me it takes getting back in the moment, knowing we are being cared for and protected, getting out of self that brings by breathing back into a healthy rhythm. It takes practice but I hope someday to breathe deeply naturally.
7. Practice Generosity
While it is said that, “it is better to give than to receive,” you might not feel this around the holidays. The added expenses, packed stores, and overall stress that comes with holiday gift-giving might make you feel like giving is not the best way to get out of your Grinch-y attitude.
True, heartfelt generosity doesn’t equate to stress, however. You can be generous with your time, your hugs, your smile, and your listening ear. If you do have extra funds, you can support nonprofits who might rely on end-of- year giving to support their work.
I learned early on in my recovery that unless I give it back, I won’t keep it. And I found that to be true when I got complacent in my sobriety, stopped going to meetings, stopped AA altogether and found my defects of character, my old sick way of being and doing and thinking come back…one day at a time. And then I drank.
I cannot afford to let down my guard. My disease of alcoholism deserves the respect I give to the ocean. I am careful. I don’t turn my back on it. I must take nothing for granted.
So I give back. This time of year especially and year-round as well I give my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration to local fundraisers, especially to AA. I give a portion of my earnings all year-round to our local AA, which gets doled out to the district, the area, and the world. If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it. Today my life is good. I want to keep it that way!
Speaking of nonprofits, many of them can use an extra hand during the holidays. The need for many services may increases during the winter months. Find a nonprofit in your community that needs help and spend some time serving your community.
Because of your compassionate feelings, you just might feel a boost.
One volunteer commitment that is sure to give me that boost is speaking once or twice a month at our local DUI classes. I do this not as community service but as a service to my community. My hope is that one person will leave the class feeling hopeful and optimistic by hearing my experience, strength and hope. Hopefully, I can change a life for the better.
And with the holidays just around the corner, what a hard time to try to get and stay clean and sober. So I’ve volunteered to lead one of the 24-Hour Alkathons that the newcomer or person struggling can attend non-stop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.
These volunteer commitments get me out of self. They help to remind me where I’ve come from and how good it is today. They help me to not drink one day at a time and to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most - compassion.
Thank you for being here and I hope I was able to offer you some hope and optimism. Wishing you the happiest of holidays and, if you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Help is just a phone call away.
With warmest aloha, Dee Harris
For those looking for Gifts with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!
Try out some of these techniques and send your inner Grinch into hibernation this winter.
Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra.
About the Author
Sara Schairer (/bios/sara-schairer)
Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation... Read more (/bios/sara-schairer)
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