How to beat the blues during the loneliest time of year
Welcome to December, everybody. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most lonely and alienating too.
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed over the weekend, and I found myself feeling less like Elf on The Shelf, and more like the Grinch.
It’s very easy to slip into a state of despair this time of year, especially when you see everyone else in full holiday mode. Photos of decorating the house with Christmas cheer, the lighting of Hanukkah candles, and vacation photos from sunnier climates can make you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. It can eventually have you asking yourself, “maybe I really am the Grinch?”
What if you’re not taking a kid to Snowflake Lane or putting up lights and trees? What if you don’t have a trip to the beach planned and you’re not the host with the most this time of year?
If you find yourself gravitating towards jealousy and envy instead of gratitude and cheer, I hear you — that happens to me during this time of year too. I can’t remember the last time I had holiday decorations in the house. I don’t even think I have a dusty box of ornaments shoved in the attic to break out even if I wanted to.
There are some techniques psychologists suggest can be helpful. They are probably going to sound hokey to some, but I’m going to try them — hopefully you will too.
First, try gratitude. I know, I know, didn’t we just have Thanksgiving? But seriously, if you take a minute to just think about a few specific things you are genuinely thankful for, it helps. And saying to yourself, “what do you have to complain about you thankless grump!” doesn’t count as gratitude. Think of something specific, no matter the size. Gratitude and envy are terrible roommates. They can’t stand being in the same space together.
Next up: Perspective. You might have to actively force yourself to do it, but try changing your perspective. When you see something that triggers jealous or envy, tell yourself to let it inspire you instead. Literally ask yourself, “what do I admire about this thing, and do I really want a version of it?” Then follow that up with action. If your friend’s place looks amazing, steal one idea and go with it.
Third: Start small. If you follow that aforementioned amateur Martha Stewart online, don’t feel the pressure to go all out. Find one thing that makes you happy. Maybe it’s a tiny Christmas tree or one ornament. Take one little corner of your place and add some cheer to it. That’s a success. Remember, this is not a competition.
And finally, reflect. Spend some time asking yourself why. Now you might be saying, “whoa dude, that’s way too much right now!” I get it, this step can seem heavy, but it does reap big rewards. If you are feeling blue right now, or even angry or lonely, ask yourself why. Maybe even find someone to talk to. They even have online therapy apps and websites now if it seem too intimidating to do it person.
If that’s still too much, start writing down your thoughts. Just ask yourself why for three of four levels. Why do I feel jealous? Because my house doesn’t look that house. Why does that bother me? Because I associate houses that look like that with successful happy people. Why don’t I feel successful? Because I didn’t get the raise I wanted. You get the idea. After a few of these layers, you might stumble on the deeper source of your current mindset and mood.
I’ve had some darker moments this holiday season myself, and I’m working through it with you.
For everyone that’s in this boat with me, it’s going to be okay. That’s a holiday gift we can all use this year.