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It’s a Wonderful Life- Or is it? 4 Strategies that Help

Seen THE movie dug up each holiday? Life is wonderful- except at certain times of the year.

Why are some of us especially depressed and anxious on such a supposedly joyous season? Nevertheless, there it is.  Beginning our November Holiday kickoff each year and ending New Year’s Eve, it hits.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, 1 “A number of factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures and too many commitments can cause stress at holiday time.

Certain people may feel depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.

Headaches, excessive drinking, overeating and insomnia are some of the possible consequences of poorly managed holiday stress”.

Here are four strategies to help you craft your own happiness recipe this holiday season (and the rest of your year).2

  1. Don’t force cheer.

At family gatherings with cousins you secretly can’t stand and in-laws who dole out backhanded compliments, it can be tempting to put on a happy face while you see the inside. Indeed, that might even seem like the most mature response- no drama, no conflict.

A 2012 study led by Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that people who wanted to feel happy even when a situation called for a different emotional response, like anger, actually reported less happiness overall. And research by Iris Mauss of UC Berkeley suggests that people who really want to be happy actually derive less happiness from positive experiences, apparently because their expectations are too high. Again and again, trying to force happiness seems to backfire.

  1. Don’t suppress sadness.

Researchers, Oliver John of UC Berkeley and James Gross of Stanford, found that “negative” feelings like sadness or anger only intensify when we try to suppress them. That’s because we feel bad about ourselves when our outward appearance contradicts how we truly feel inside. When we suppress emotions like sadness, we deny them the important function they can serve in our lives.

If we don’t recognize that feeling, we might not take the necessary steps to improve our situation.

  1. Respond mindfully.

But none of this is to endorse drowning in melancholy or lashing out at our in-laws. Some ways of processing and acting on our emotions are healthier than others.

Recently, scientists have been paying special attention to the benefits of mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It’s a way to avoid suppressing your emotions without reacting hastily or getting consumed by rumination.

  1. Enjoy your emotional cocktail.

Inevitably, the holidays will bring a mix of highs and lows. Perhaps the most important lesson to keep in mind is that this variety of emotions might be the best thing possible for your overall well-being.

In other words, sadness, anger, and other difficult emotions are like so many other staples of the holidays, from egg nog to office parties: In moderation, they’re nothing to fear. Just make sure you’re balancing them with other, lighter experiences. And don’t forget to give yourself a break.

Your trusted mental health provider can provide timely and effective support to your suffering from any type of holiday depression or stress during this time of year.

“Counseling or support groups can also be beneficial”.3

And, your trusted counselor can guide you through a relatively new approach, termed Mindfulness.4 Mindfulness isn’t something you’re simply born with or without; it’s a skill you can cultivate over time.

     This is where Counseling on Demand comes in.  At the very least, we can guide and support you through these times.  At best, we can help for those other times too.

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  1. Dr. Melissa Stoppler,

  1. Jason Marsh posted Dec 14, 2015

Four scientific strategies for an emotionally authentic holiday season

  1. Op.Cit, Stoppler
  2. Matthew C. Hunt, MA, Depression – The Mindfulness Approach, 3 Helps, at

I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!