Mental Health Awareness: 4 Tips to Have a Happier Holiday Season
As a child, it felt magical. I fondly remember how my mother turned our house into a winter wonderland the day after Christmas and spent the first weekend baking up a storm of gingerbread people for us to munch on. I remember packing into the car and vibrating with excitement as we made our annual trip to see family. There were snow days and afternoons spent sledding down the mountains before snuggling up with hot cocoa around a roaring fire.
It’s still a special time, but it feels different as an adult. The magic is still there, in the extra kindness of strangers and the gentle snowfall on a quiet morning, but for many of us the winter season can also be hard on our mental health.
Aside from the stress of an ever-looming holiday to-do list and a rapidly filling social calendar, the days are shorter, and it can be hard to stick to healthy routines with so much going on. It’s important to take a moment to connect with yourself and check in on your mental health and wellness.
If this time of the year tends to affect your mental health, here are a few ways you can have a happier holiday.
1. Keep Moving
Exercise increases endorphins and makes us happier but it’s hard to make sure you’re moving during the winter months when the temperatures are dropping and the sun is only out for a few hours a day.
If you live in an area where the winters are mild, you may still be able to get outside and take a walk, but for those living in colder, snowier climates, try switching to movement you can do indoors.
Gyms often run membership specials close to the new year if you want to practice weight training or cardio fitness, but you can still move from the comfort of your home. Doing stretching or forms of yoga can be a great way to incorporate movement into your daily routine while also practicing mindfulness. If there isn’t a yoga studio near you, there are plenty of YouTube videos and fitness apps to get you started.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving for you to practice being grateful.
Journaling is a great way to check in on your mental health and by writing down the things you’re thankful for, it can bring positive memories and affirmations into your daily routine. Plus, there is no “right way” to get started. You can write down details of your day in paragraph form or make a bulleted list of positive things.
During the month of December, I like to write a positive memory from the year on a slip of paper each day and keep it in a jar or small box. Then, on January 1st, I read through all the good things that happened to me over the course of the year. Not only is this a fun way to journal, but I like the tradition of starting my year off on a positive note.
3. Put Focus on Connecting
The holiday season is seen as a time of giving, but it’s important to remember that meaningful connections don’t come from the exchange of items. There is no reason to stress yourself out trying to find the perfect gift for everyone in your life. Instead, try following the new trend of giving experiences.
For example, when searching for a gift for a child, consider buying tickets to the zoo, an interactive museum, or aquarium. The memories they make will last longer than the hottest toy of the year.
Trying to find something to give a friend? Buy a gift card to a restaurant they enjoy and set a date to reconnect over a meal together. In our busy lives, our time is one of the greatest gifts we can offer and this is a great way to make time for the people you don’t see often enough.
Not only will giving experiences help cut down on your time spent in the frantic shopping crowds but fostering connections through shared experiences will benefit your mental health.
4. Limit Your Time on Social Media
When you’re snuggled up inside under a blanket, it’s easy to start scrolling through Instagram, TikTok or Facebook, but studies have shown that this can affect your mental health. Limiting social media intake is a good habit to start regardless of the season.
Many phones allow you to take control of your screen time by setting limits on certain apps. Another way to cut down on the scroll is to remove the apps from your home screen.
No, I’m not suggesting you completely get rid of social media. Most phones will allow you to remove the icon while still keeping the app installed on your phone. You’ll still be able to access the apps, but you’ll have to be intentional and go searching on your phone rather than clicking in just because it’s in front of you. Out of sight, out of mind!
Cut down on your social media and instead spend your time making real connections or taking up a hobby you thought you didn’t have time for.
If you find yourself struggling with mental health during the holiday season, or any time of the year, you are not alone. In addition to these tips, here are some mental health resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
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