Glad During The Holidays: No Matter What!


Sark HUG

The holidays are full of pressures to be glad even if you don’t feel that way. People talk about “holiday cheer,” “finding the silver lining,” “looking on the bright side,” all of which are fine when we feel those things, but can actually add to feelings of loneliness and depression when we don’t. There is also a certain kind of “holiday tyranny” where we are encouraged to hide how we’re actually feeling, for the “sake of the holidays.”

We are meant to feel what we feel when we feel it, then let it go. Most people don’t know how they’re feeling, or that it’s okay to feel it. We are not taught how to have, or hold multiple feelings simultaneously, so many people choose one and cling to it. That one feeling might be described as happy or sad, but it’s not a true reflection of our complexities as humans, and results in our feelings not flowing. Instead they get stuck, or other feelings are left untended.

For example, you might feel happy to see your mom at Christmas, sad that she’s physically declining, angry that your sister isn’t doing more, and worried about the future. If you fixate on just one of those feelings, it will not be as productive or helpful. Instead, it would be much more effective to feel all that you feel, respond lovingly to yourself, your mother and your sister, and create good systems for your family and self-care practices too.

Practical Gladness means living in the “messy middle” of all of your feelings and finding your “glad ground” underneath. From this glad ground place, you can be aware of and hold all of your feelings, notice ways to respond instead of react, and transform what’s possible to transform.

When we find our glad ground in the middle, it is possible to enjoy the holidays truly, authentically, and with grace and wisdom. Here are some practical ways you can experience more gladness this holiday season:

1. Create a new self-care plan — Think of what you need to feel good during the holidays, and provide it for yourself. Some of these things might be:

*Special foods that you know you will enjoy

*Call a friend to share how you’re really feeling— not how you think you should be

*Practice ways to experience less stress, like going for a walk or attending a yoga class

*Write in a journal or book with lists of things that nourish you, and do the things.

2. Adjust and lower your expectations, or better yet — have none — Notice how your expectations bring suffering when they aren’t met.  For example, if you feel ignored or overworked at holiday times, take yourself out for champagne and ignore some things you “should” be doing. Change your expectations about what you or others “should be” doing or acting like, and practice allowing how it actually IS. Focus on what’s good and working

3. Educate others in the best ways to support you—Become clear about what actually feels supportive to you, and ask for others to contribute. For example, if you typically care for others and wish others would or could care for you, figure out what they could contribute to you that would be easy and fun. You might ask a friend to meet you for tea and laughter in the midst of a busy shopping or cleaning day, or sit with you while you wrap gifts or write cards

4. Experiment with new traditions and rituals for the holidays — Do things differently. We all tend to repeat and become habituated. For example, “we always have our meal at _______.” Some of my greatest holiday experiences have taken place at the movies, miniature golfing or serving food at a shelter instead of trying to participate in rituals or traditions that no longer represent who I am now.

5. Allow yourself to experience your holidays imperfectly — Revise your ideas of perfection and increase your capacity for spontaneous joy. For example, if you get tense and pressured about preparing a meal, buying gifts, sending cards, or trying to do it ALL, try:

*Doing less and feeling good about it-refuse to be a prisoner of others expectations

*Doing parts of things — fix the dessert, ask others to bring the other things

*Doing tiny amounts — consider attending a holiday party for 5- 15 minutes with no explanation about why

*Asking others to help and then don’t control or manage “how they do it”

6. Practice transforming what hurts into what helps — Find the places that aren’t working and speak up about them. For example, you might ask a group of people in your home to talk about different subjects like what they’re loving in this moment, instead of sitting there judging how bored or dissatisfied you are feeling.

*If you’re cooking and get crabby, let others know and help you!

*If you hate shopping, ask others to create experiences or adventures for each other instead of buying gifts

*If you keep complaining about the holidays, see if you can put your complaints on paper and resolve to have new experiences

*If you feel ungrateful, find someone to listen to who is facing challenges that you’re not.

Being glad no matter what is NOT about feeling glad when you don’t- how annoying. It’s about practicing with all of your feelings and feeling glad as often as you possibly can- especially during the holidays!

Based on the book Glad No Matter What © 2010 by SARK. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

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  1. Hazey_Sunshine

    This is brilliant advice, and exactly what I needed to hear reiterated. 🙂

  2. Kristin Morrison

    Thanks Sark for this. Such a good reminder.
    My business cranks up a notch this time of year which sometimes makes the holidays even more stressful. Though I’m grateful for financial abundance I’ve found myself depleted.
    My body relaxed when I read your wise words and none too soon!
    I will ask for help. I will rest. I will breathe.
    And thus, I will enjoy the holidays.
    Warmly and gratefully,

  3. ~julie~

    sark, on these holidays and always, i am very very glad for YOU.
    i hope you are finding joy and love and happiness in whatever holiday(s) you choose to celebrate.

  4. Phyllis Johnson

    Loved Living Juicy! I was cleaning my office tonight and found the copy. My Muse has been absent lately and this will help.

  5. William DeFoore

    Hi Sark
    Thanks for your wonderful blog! I just wanted you to know that I put two links to your blog and quoted you in my most recent Goodfinding Newsletter (linked in this comment). Thanks again for contributing to the light, love and laughter in this magnificent world.
    My best to you,

  6. renee

    Well, I didn’t find your site and this BLOG until today..
    I heard you this morning on a Twin Cities radio show “Get Real Girls”
    Which led me to your Facebook page..
    which leads me to this ..only a week past the Holiday..
    but the part of about NOT acting as if I am feeling something I am not–to feel what I am..yet find the joy-or Glad in the middle and stand on it..that helps..I choose to hang on to that..
    loved our phone message also and am digging in to what other treasures I can find today..
    thanks for the light

  7. Eleanor

    Thanks for this great post, SARK. This holiday, I decided it did not make sense to travel out west (from New York to see family. Travel this time of year is so stressful and expensive. Decided it was time to start some holiday traditions with my husband and neighbors. It was great having the quiet time to enjoy each other and the awesome place that New York is. Also, our apartment took on a magical quality!

  8. Satia

    I finished Glad No Matter What and enjoyed it very much. I called your inspiration line, something I think I’ve only done twice before, and I hung up without leaving a message. Now I wish I had shared with you that I had to stop wearing my engagement ring because the diamond was coming loose. My husband wants to get it fixed. In the meantime, however, I’m wearing a ring which says “Allow Miracles” and has stars on it. I gave this ring to several people in my life one year including my daughter and my mother.
    So today, I hope you are enjoying yourself wherever you are and I know you are allowing those miracles. As am I.

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