November is here and that means that Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and everything in between is here. It means that we will potentially be around family, that we will be stressed, and that there will be a lot to do. So much to do, that many times we fail to find ourselves truly living in the joy of the season or in joy at all. Whether it’s because a family member passed and it’s hard to celebrate without them, or maybe finances make this time of year difficult, or just maybe you struggle with frustration, anxiety or depression. No matter who you are or your reasoning, finding joy in the holidays is possible and can renew you going into the new year.
How to find Joy
I don’t know what it is about the holidays but there is a certain melancholy and nostalgia about them. It’s almost like we get sad over the years past, but fail to focus on the joyous season at hand. I know for myself, some of my darker hours and harder struggles have been from November to January. Maybe it’s failed expectations, maybe it’s family difficulties or general anxieties, or maybe it’s feeling like I am not enough… regardless, it’s a time that should be filled with joy and happiness, but many times can be hard for us.
There are so many reasons to unplug from technology during the holidays. First, remember that most people typically share the highlights of their day. When we think a couple or family “has it all” they are just not showing us what’s in their dirty laundry basket. Jealousy is one of the quickest joy-kills there is. So when you have the opportunity to sit down at a Thanksgiving feast or Enjoy Christmas as a family, put the phones away.
Furthermore, enjoy the moment. There is no need for a picture of everything. In fact, do you print out 30 pictures of someone unwrapping a gift where all you see is the wrapping paper and they don’t know what’s inside yet? No. Take time to relish in the moment and create an internal memory. Those are cherished just as much if not more than a photograph. I once heard that the camera was the downfall of the human vocabulary because it took our creativity in language away. Think about the stories your grandparents tell and how vivid the memories were versus a still picture that has no personality. [I am not saying don’t take any picture; just remember to take time to live in some of the moments, rather than relive it for the first time in a picture.]
Being Joyful doesn’t have to mean being happy in every circumstance
It is still very possible to find joy; that deep emotion that stirs inside of your heart and soul, even when you outwardly are not at your happiest. You can revel in the moments that you will never forget and you can focus on the things that are going well. Throughout this second pregnancy, I have been miserable, sick, and have struggled with unhappiness. But I have had so much joy in my heart focusing on the end goal, treasuring little moments with my daughter as an only child, and dreaming of the sweet child that is to be born.
In the holidays we can find joy by focusing on the time that our children get to spend with extended family or maybe live through their happiness in the moment. The hardest days are sometimes the best reminders of what we have. Our focus should also be on what we have rather than dwelling on the negative and what is not available to us in the moment.
Remember that you do not have to be perfect nor does the occasion
The best stories are the ones where the who family got food poisoning on Christmas day. (Yes it happened). Or where the turkey caught fire at Thanksgiving. There is truly no perfection in those moments, but the memories and the stories are what make them joyous. There is so much anxiety in trying to make everything “just right” when it’s completely unnecessary in the long run. We all live imperfect lives and our joy is not derived from a perfect-looking pie, but that moment when the ugly pie gets the “best tasting” seal of approval.
Sometimes things don’t go as we had planned and that can be in any circumstance. Feels Like Home Blog has 13 Bible Verses for the Christian mommas out there to help them overcome and cope with disappointment.
Get Moving & Avoid unhealthy food
Speaking of pie, try to avoid it and other sweets as possible. Not only are we likely to put on weight from unhealthy food choices during the holidays, but consuming too much sugar and processed food actually negatively affects our mood. There is a chemical reaction in our brains and bodies that can actually trigger depression and depression-like symptoms in us when we are not being good to our bodies. So eat well during the holidays if you can, because you will feel better, probably more joyful if you do!
Sometimes joy can be lost during the holidays because expectations are not communicated between spouses, between families, or shared at all. Maybe it’s something fickle like giving and receiving gifts and instead of being thankful and joyful for time spent, you wind up dwelling on feeling like someone doesn’t know you because of the gift they got for you or that you are feeling inadequate because you can’t and didn’t spend as much on someone as they did on you.
If you know that’s you, communicate those fears and the expectations that you have. I would much rather keep my joy than get disappointed over something trivial. And maybe the expectation is that no one should expect your family to be at an event. That’s ok too, but to avoid those hard feelings and the kill-joy to follow, mention it and take a stand in saying you will not be there because there is obviously a reason and it’s not about them, but about decisions you make that are best for your family.
My favorite tip to be happy from The linked post above on the Joys of Boys is to surround yourself with happy people. It seems too simple. But if the people you are around annoy you, are frustrating, and don’t lift you up to encourage you, then you do not have to be around them. This goes for family as well. Remember that it’s not about them, it’s about your well-being. You don’t have to make excuses either. The best way to find joy in the holidays or any day is to find positivity and happy people to surround yourself with and to reject any negativity that might come your way.
Find joy in sharing stories with your children, in taking time as a couple to remember times together, and overall in focusing on the good. Even if today is hard and it doesn’t look better tomorrow, there is joy in remember such beautiful and good times.
Always focus on What’s Good
Allison at the House of Hendrix, summarizes this best in her post about being thankful when you can’t seem to find joy. She says
We often have to be strong to endure what’s on our plate, and we persevere when we really just want to crumble. It’s scary to soften our hearts for a moment, to see past the pain of struggle, and to be thankful…but that is where the good stuff lies.
It’s so true. It can be really hard when we are juggling a full plate of life and all it throws at us. But in the end, we have beautiful families, can marvel at God’s beautiful world, and we are alive to experience both the good and the bad.
Here’s to wishing you a joy-filled holiday season
despite the struggles of life!
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Find more Posts about Joy from Some of my wonderful Fellow Bloggers:
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!