I have always loved this time of year for the excitement of the first snow, the cozy Sunday’s spent decorating for the holidays and baking, to the smell of a wood-burning fireplace, trips down memory lane, the twinkle of the lights and the togetherness. But what truly makes this season come alive for me is the way in which the spirit of the season truly brings out almost everyone’s altruistic optimism. (if even for just a few weeks)
But for many this season can be stressful, bringing up feelings of pessimism, anxiety, depression, loneliness or just a solid case of ‘the blues’.
And although these feeling can’t just be erased after reading one really great blog (eh em), maybe these helpful recommendations will spark something within you at just the right moment and help you to see the magic.
Using a mantra can help us hold onto that childlike wonder during the holiday season. For some, family gatherings are fun; for others, stressful. Either way, here’s a mantra to use during the holidays:
"I move through my day light-hearted and carefree, knowing all is well."
Before your family gathering, find a quiet space and sit comfortably with your eyes closed. You can light candles, burn incense, infuse oils, whatever helps you get quiet. Begin to notice your breath.
Grow taller with your inhale, and feel the support of the earth below you as you exhale. Take one to five minutes to repeat the mantra over and over, with eyes closed, in your seated position. A mantra is fueled by the act of constant and consistent repetition. By repeating a thought or idea, it gains strength and energy, and anchors us to the present moment.
During a family gathering, you can take a few minutes to step outside or into the bathroom, or sit in your car, and repeat the mantra. You can come back to your mantra anytime, anywhere.
Let In The Light, But Embrace The Dark
This time of year lack of sunlight may reduce levels of serotonin - a neurotransmitter that, when low, can affect your mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), strikes around the same time each year, most often during the winter months when sunlight is scarce.
I challenge you to take advantage of the light there is.
“There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it,’ said my mother. 'Put yourself in the way of beauty.” -Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Along with becoming a ‘chaser of the light’ and taking advantage of what sunlight there is, learning to embrace the feeling of wanting to hunker down can be quite magical as well. What if we stopped viewing these heavy emotions as a negative thing? Something to ponder as you watch that sun come up over the horizon.
Some take my optimism as facetious or flippant or even naïve. Having an optimistic outlook does not make you naive. It’s more like a lifesaving, world changing, sanity saving magic. Science even says so…
Studies among cognitive scientists and research data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), examined quality of life, chronic disease, morbidity, and mortality among over 95,000 women across an 8-year period and found that believing in the good feeds something incredibly important inside ourselves. “Dispositional optimism,” a mindset where you simply tend to expect positive outcomes for the future, has been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits – lower levels of inflammation, reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, infection, and even a longer life span! Optimists literally live longer to see all those positive projections of the future unfold.
When it comes down to it - real optimism is about trusting that there is more, more than what our limited human eyes can see. And that we can believe - believe in all the magic of the unknown and the unseen.