Creating Holiday Joy—It’s Up To You
Dr. Nancy Gold, Clinical Psychologist | Co-founder, Elegant Introductions
Are the holidays a time of joy, connection, stress and loneliness? Yes! Which emotion dominates depends mainly on you. While the Covid-19 pandemic has proven beyond any doubt certain things in life are beyond our control, people’s widely differing reactions to the virus confirms that attitude plays a significant role in one’s happiness or lack thereof. Joy and positivity are contagious, and the upcoming holidays are a time when a positive attitude can make the difference between feelings of loneliness and feelings of connection and joy.
Loneliness can manifest itself in many ways, even when we are with a partner or a group of friends. Defined as a discrepancy or gap between the bonds that we need versus the ones that we have, it’s a subjective term based on the quality of our connections. Although we all experience loneliness, some people are hesitant to admit to themselves and others what they feel. Many long for family togetherness, a romantic relationship, or closer connections in general. As the holiday season approaches, they look forward to a flurry of activity, including holiday feasts and gatherings, to fill that loneliness gap.
Indeed, people need intimacy, a trusted partner, relationships, friends, and community collective connections to thrive. The expression “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else”, is particularly pertinent here. By creating self-knowledge and inner peace, one can more easily connect with others.
Too often, people who experience feelings of loneliness tend to focus on what they lack. It’s human nature to magnify the negative, focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. We work towards overcoming that by making a conscious effort to take in the good. That’s how gratitude works: by noticing and amplifying the positive. Try it, you’ll like it!
It is vital to cultivate feelings of gratitude for what you have in your life. Studies by Dr. Robert Emmons have shown that keeping a gratitude journal leads to lasting feelings of wellbeing. Those in one study wrote a list of five things that were positive in their lives. After ten weeks, the participants were more optimistic and happier. According to Dr. Emmons’ research, gratitude can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve immune function, improve relationships and decrease depression.
Positive begets positive, whether internally or when with others. If you practice focusing on your blessings and gratitude, your life will improve. How so? Greater self-esteem, improved interpersonal relationships, and an overall more positive outlook on life.
People are more hungry for connection than ever. So reach out to others: neighbors, friends, family, clergy. You’ll get it back tenfold. But first, be good to yourself. “Not only do self-love and love of others go hand in hand, but ultimately they are indistinguishable.” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled).
Keeping that in mind, happy holidays!