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How to Put the J back in JOY

7 Secrets to Decrease Holiday Stress and Increase Holiday Happiness

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‘Tis the season to be…what exactly? We acknowledge that 2020 has not been our best year. Okay. It mostly sucked. As a result, we may be experiencing more Oy than Joy. So how can bring joy back?

Here are some tips to help you bring back that long-lost feeling of Joy:

1. Embrace the Suckiness

I know what you’re thinking. You probably didn’t expect that “suckiness” can lead to joy. Here’s the thing. There’s a wonderful phrase: “It’s okay to not feel okay.” The truth is that the holiday season can be stressful in general, and this year it can feel even more stressful. Instead of slapping on a smiley face and pretending to be in the holiday spirit, it’s healthier to take your emotional temperature and note where you’re at. If you’re feeling sad, then it’s okay to embrace that emotion rather than harshly judge it. Repressing feelings that we judge to be negative only serves to exacerbate those feelings. Sitting with your sadness or another unwanted emotion can help you move through it. While it might seem counterintuitive, your ability to “Embrace the Suckiness” (a phrase from the movie “Keeping the Faith”) can allow you to let go and move up the emotional ladder to happiness and joy.

2. Use your Tongue to Sleep Better

We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, yet many of us still don’t get one! Here’s a trick to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and get good quality sleep.

Relax your tongue and place it on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Hold it there while you continue to do this entire exercise. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath and count to 7. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8 while making a “whoosh” sound. Repeat this 4-7-8 breathing for a total of four breath cycles. This method is recommended by Harvard trained best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil.

Bonus:   This breathing technique is not only a great way to help you fall asleep, but it’s also helpful to reduce cravings, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improve digestion.  According to Dr. Weil, it’s even more powerful than most anti-anxiety medications.  You can also use this during the day when you’re feeling stressed to help calm you down.  Check out this video to see how it’s done.

3.  Make Your Bed

For all of the Type A’s in our lives, (which may or may not include you…and me), that feeling of being productive may bring us joy.  Even during the holiday season. And since most of us are not busy wrapping gifts because Amazon is doing that for us, we still need to feel like we’re accomplishing something.  One of the best ways to do this is to make your bed every morning.  This simple act will make you feel as if you’ve accomplished something, and can set you up for your day in a positive way. You can even add some holiday cheer to your bed-making by purchasing a fun decorative pillow (mine says HOPE).  If you’d like to feel even more productive, watch this inspiring video, “If You Want to Change The World, Start Off by Making Your Bed” by US Navy Admiral William McRaven.  It’s been viewed over 12 million times and will help bring you joy.  

4. Give This Gift Once a Day

Love can help spread joy—to others and to ourselves.  We all know the importance of gratitude and saying Thank You at least once a day.  Now try this with love.  Say “I love you” to someone (including yourself!) and/or text someone a heart emoji.  Text the heart without a note. Why?  Simply because it feels good. Choose one person once a day.  Or choose more.  Sometimes you’ll hear back from the recipient and sometimes you won’t. But the simple act of giving love relates to the practice of giving in general.  Research shows that humans secrete “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin and experience a “high” when they give. The power of giving coupled with the power of love?  Now that’s a perfect combination.

5.  Find That Last Potato Chip

You know the one. It’s stuck in the bottom of the bag. You happily discover it after you thought you’d sadly finished them all. Instead of just scarfing it down, take a moment. Delight in it. A bonus chip! When we choose to pay attention to the little things in life, we force ourselves to be in the moment. And in those moments, we can find joy. We just have to pause and take notice. Maybe it’s in the cooking oil that splatters on the kitchen counter in the shape of a funny face, the way your spoon scoops out the ice cream in a brand new container, or that parking space that magically appears. Focusing on the little things in your life can actually bring you big joy.

6. Blow Bubbles in Your Drink

Create moments of joy for yourself.  Blow bubbles in your drink.  Sing the wrong words to a song, even if you know the right words.  Bite into a piece of fruit and say “Ahhh!”  Get silly.  Enjoy the benefits of playing.  Studies show that engaging in play can relieve stress, improve brain function, and boost creativity.  Play can also make you look and feel younger.   And who doesn’t want that? 

7. FALALALALA!!!

Singing has been called a natural anti-depressant.  It’s a wonderful way to improve your mood because it releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin while reducing your stress levels.   Singing can also boost your immune system.  In a study conducted at University of Frankfurt, choir members were found to have a great number of antibodies after only one hour of singing.  What if you can’t carry a tune?  Take heart. A study was done on a group of singers whose “vocal instrument was of mediocre quality” and it turns out that you don’t have to be good singer to reap the great health benefits of singing. 

On a final note, while I wish I could sing for you (but lucky for you I can’t), I’d like to wish you all a happy, healthy, joyful holiday season that doesn’t suck. Sending big holiday hugs your way…

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