Glad during the holidays — no matter what!

Think of what you need in order to feel good during the holidays and provide it for yourself.

by SARK — 

The holiday season is here, and with it comes a lot of pressure to be upbeat — even if we do not feel that way. People talk about holiday cheer, finding the silver lining and looking on the bright side, all of which are fine when we feel good, but can actually add to feelings of loneliness and depression when we do not. There is also a kind of unspoken tyranny in that we are encouraged to hide how we are 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 do not know how they are feeling or that it is OK to feel it. We are not taught how to have or hold multiple feelings simultaneously, so many of us choose one and cling to it. That feeling might be described as happy or sad, but it is not a true reflection of our complexities as humans, and can result in blocking the flow of our feelings.

For example, you might feel happy to see your mom at Christmas, yet sad that she is physically declining, angry that your sister is not doing more, and worried about the future. If you fixate on just one of those feelings, it will not be productive or helpful. Instead, it would be much more effective to feel all that you feel and respond lovingly to yourself, your mother and your sister.

Practical Gladness means living in the “messy middle” of your feelings and finding your “glad ground” underneath. From this glad ground, you can be aware of and hold all your feelings, as well as notice ways to respond instead of react, and transform what is 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 in order to feel good during the holidays and provide it for yourself. Some of these things might be:

  • Eating special foods that you enjoy.
  • Calling a friend to share how you are really feeling.
  • Practicing ways to experience less stress, like going for a walk or attending a yoga class.
  • Writing in a journal a list of things that nourish you, and making sure you have access to them.

2. Adjust and lower your expectations or, better yet, have none — Notice how your expectations bring suffering when they are not met. For example, if you feel taken advantage of or overworked at the holidays, pour yourself a glass of champagne and ignore some of the things you should be doing. Change your expectations about how you or others should be acting or doing, and practice allowing what actually is. Focus on what is good and working.

3. Educate others — Become clear about what feels supportive to you, and ask for it. For example, if you typically care for others and wish others would or could care for you, figure out what they can contribute. 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 5:30 p.m.” 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 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 feel pressured about preparing meals, buying gifts, sending cards or trying to “do it all,” instead try:

  • Doing less and feeling good about it — refuse to be a prisoner of others’ expectations.
  • Doing parts of things — fix the entrée, then ask friends to bring the side dishes.
  • Doing tiny amounts — consider attending a holiday party for 5 to 15 minutes with no explanation about why.
  • Asking others to help and then not controlling or managing how they do it.

6. Practice transforming what hurts into what helps — Find the places that are not working and speak up about them. For example, you might ask a group of friends to come to your home to talk about different subjects, like what they are loving in the moment, instead of judging how dissatisfied they are feeling about life in general.

  • If you are cooking and get crabby, let others know so they can help you.
  • If you hate shopping, ask friends to create experiences or adventures you may enjoy doing together, 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 you can listen to who is facing challenges that you are not.

Being glad no matter what is not about feeling glad when you do not. It is about practicing using all of your feelings, and feeling glad as often as you possibly can, especially during the holidays.


SARK is a best-selling author and artist, with 16 titles in print and more than two million books sold. Her newest book is Glad No Matter What. She is also the founder and creative fountain of Planet SARK, which creates innovative products and services to support empowered living. Her inspiration phone line: 415-546-3742 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 6, Dec 2010/Jan 2011.


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