Three Secrets to Happy Holidays: Be Grateful, Stay Present, and Sleep Well

Thrive’s Sleep Editor-at-Large, Shelly Ibach, offers expert advice on how to have your best holiday season ever.

NicoElNino / Shutterstock
NicoElNino / Shutterstock

The storybook image of the holidays is one of cozy get-togethers and happy celebrations with loved ones. Yet in reality, it can be quite different. I always say we have one big, messy life — rather than a separate work and home life — and this time of year I feel that’s even more true. With travel and year-end responsibilities, on top of shopping, hosting, cooking, decorating, and attending events, it can be challenging to remain positive and respond calmly to everything. As a result, the seasonal joy we all want to feel can be replaced by stress and exhaustion. 

How do you take a step back to immerse yourself in the essence of the holidays and the spirit of giving that fuels this magical time of year? My approach comes down to these three things: Be grateful, stay present, and sleep well. They all intertwine. 

Focus on gratitude

I start each day with gratitude. Being thankful for serenity and health keeps me grounded and present. I find strength in quietness and I strive to find joy every day — it often starts with the sunrise. Science shows that being thankful can strengthen relationships and boost happiness, which makes all the difference, especially over the holidays. While I love the celebratory aspect of the festivities and gatherings, making time for stillness and quiet reflection is of paramount importance to me. I appreciate the abundance in my life, including my family, friends, my team and my role as the CEO of a purpose-driven company, Sleep Number. I am grateful for the years I spent with George, my late husband — how the gifts of our marriage remain present in my life. I am grateful for life. 

I’d encourage you to try a simple exercise for the rest of the month — and hopefully into the new year.  Keep a journal by your bed, and every night or morning, write three things that you are grateful for. That simple act can shift your perspective. Many people find themselves dwelling on negative emotions. Cultivating gratitude can lead to a far more positive mental state that could make all the difference for this year’s festivities.

Stay present

When we spread ourselves too thin, it’s easy for our minds to bypass the hectic experience we might be having, by focusing on the past or projecting into the future, both of which are unhelpful. What’s more, indulging negative thoughts can take us away from the present. When we keep our focus on the here and now in an intentional way, we have an opportunity to enhance our sense of well-being and joy. 

Being in the moment requires practice, and it can be surprisingly simple. For example, if you are cooking, cook. If you are opening gifts with the children, engross yourself in their delight. I believe that truly staying present, engaging in what is happening right now, moment to moment, can elicit a level of deep fulfillment that is transformative.

Sleep well

It won’t come as a surprise that one of my keys to happy, stress-free holidays (and everyday) is sleep. Without consistent quality sleep, none of us would have the vitality to enjoy the celebrations and be present. Good sleep is crucial for a healthy mind, body, and soul, supporting everything from healthy brain function to improved physical and emotional health. 

Making zzz’s a priority when there’s so much going on can give you the energy to make the most of precious time with your loved ones. Good sleep can even help you put any holiday stress or personal concerns into perspective, so that you can direct your attention to what’s important — and have fun doing so. 

Here’s to a wonderful, blessed and restful holiday season. 

Sleep Well, Dream Big, 


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