The holidays are a time for fun, family, food... and nostalgia. These few months of the year can easily reopen old emotional and mental wounds: we remember celebrations shared with loved ones who are no longer with us. We dream about seasons when we felt happier than we feel now. We wish we could relive former festivities under better circumstances—financial, health, or otherwise. Ironically, the season that’s supposed to be the most joyful is anything but for some of us.
The holidays disrupt our daily routines, making us feel more uncomfortable and empathetic than usual. In truth, we need healing during this part of the year much more than we need presents or parties. And because this season causes us to feel the world around us with greater awareness, it's also an excellent time to mend past pains and gain a new, more positive perspective. Practice these ten rituals throughout the holidays to promote inner wellness, peace, and perseverance:
Repair rifts and seek closure. If there’s a right time to end arguments and forgo grudges, it’s now. Repairing rifts doesn’t mean you have to invite bad people back into your life. It means writing a quick note of forgiveness and well wishes, admitting that you were wrong and saying I'm sorry, or praying for a person who hurt you. Seeking closure is twofold: you cannot overcome outstanding karma and come to a peaceful resolution with someone without first reaching a peaceful resolution with yourself. This means relinquishing destructive emotions because you recognize that they are hurting no one but you.
Detach from what brings pain. This is the perfect moment to distance yourself from harmful people, situations, and memories. Introspect honestly and separate the sources of your pain from the sources of your joy. Don't feel guilty for ensuring your own happiness, even if that means leaving certain things behind. Also dispose of items you hold on to but no longer need. Letting go of objects that embody negativity is strongly healing. Throw out photographs of your ex and donate gifts given to you by people who didn’t play a positive role in your life. They don't have a place on your journey of progress.
Unwind in the evening. Many of us spend holiday evenings contemplating what we have to get done tomorrow and how we’ll ever do it all in time. Especially during the holidays, when stress levels are higher than normal, it’s necessary to get adequate sleep. Understand that fretting and fussing contribute nothing to helping you finish your tasks. You're more likely to get everything done during the day if you unwind at night and get a fresh start.
Write a letter to the future you. Write a letter to yourself to reread on future holidays. Tell yourself that you’re working on becoming a better person. Explain how. Reassure yourself that you will get through everything. List your struggles and how you're going to overcome them just as you've overcome every adversity up to now. Create an ideal scenario for next year: where will you be? With whom? What is your version of a joyful holiday?
Cook. Cooking and entertaining can be daunting tasks—the ingredients, the cost, the mess. But when you plan carefully and don’t overexert yourself, cooking becomes a healing art. Just do what you can, and do it with love and care. Don't feel bad if you're not able to make a five-course meal. Sometimes the simplest, smallest meals are the most well-received.
Open up your heart. It’s customary to cater to others during the holidays. We think about what to buy, how to decorate, and where to go–all thoughts that bury our discomfort more deeply and distract us from what we really feel. Because you’re more sensitive during this season, it’s recommended to open up to others and discuss your emotional state. As you release thoughts and emotions, you might come up with new solutions to long-standing problems. Heartfelt dialogue with a friend or family member you trust can be very therapeutic. Pick one person to confide in and confess your challenges, hopes, fears, etc. Listen also to their dilemmas and offer heartfelt advice. This can also be done with a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. What’s important is to let out the old so as to welcome in the new.
Connect to your dear departed. Just because a person isn’t with you in the physical sense doesn’t mean they’re not present in other ways. If the void of a late loved one still cuts deeply, connecting to them is easier than you think. Visit their grave and speak to them. Light a candle in their name and conjure their memory to mind. You can even save a space at the table for them in spirit. Often the other side tries to communicate with us, but we’re so enmeshed in the noises of the real world that we fail to listen. You can receive divine signs and guidance if you simply pay attention.
Be among nature. Unless the weather is inclement, make no excuses not go outside each day. Elevate your heart rate by walking or jogging in the cold. Breathe deeply. Let the brisk air fill your lungs and the beautiful, still scenery calm your mind. Relate the indisputable truths of the natural world to your own life: there is a time to bloom and a time to be bleak, a time to produce and a time to be still, and all seasons of life hold unique meaning. In this way, when your life feels bleak, be comforted by the fact that your own season of growth will soon follow.
Show gratitude. An attitude of gratitude makes all the difference in healing or hurting yourself. Gratitude isn’t a momentary feeling, it’s a way of life: it’s understanding that what some other people lack, you have. It’s acknowledging that many of the things that could’ve gone wrong, didn’t, and being thankful for that. Being grateful allows you both to cherish what you have and drives you to work for what you want to have.
Do what makes you happy. You should be doing what makes you happy on a daily basis! But since that’s not always possible, do it at least during this time of the year. Buy presents for others, yes, but also buy one for yourself. Make the food your family loves but also make what you love. After a long evening of entertaining guests, spend a day at the spa, meditating, or detoxifying your system.
The holidays are admittedly difficult for many of us, but they don’t have to be. We can evolve through this special time of the year by healing our minds and spirits. Then, we can reach an incredible level of wellbeing year-round.
To healing for the holidays,
Dr. Carmen Harra
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