People often talk about the holiday spirit, but what is it really? Is it the act of giving and kindness, or is it the ability to not let your negative thoughts override the joy that the season offers?
Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Some people are better than others at compartmentalizing their emotions, so they don’t feel the negative ones when gathering with others for the holidays. They can focus their love and energy on the activities of the day and allow some joy to come into their lives.
There are others who cannot let the bad stuff go and hold on to grudges or losses, which makes them unhappy all the time. As adults, we can learn to compartmentalize our negative emotions, so other people aren’t affected by them and we can enjoy life more. Everyone can benefit from this practice.
I am personally not going to let inflation, high interest rates, the war in Ukraine and other things out of my control dampen the holiday spirit. Instead, my wife and I are choosing to give back.
This holiday season, we rented a bedroom suite to a Ukrainian couple because no one else would rent to them. They had no credit history, so they had been forced to live in motels, but we could tell they were good people. We had the space available and could think of no better thing to do with it than share it with others who really needed it.
They are very appreciative and will bring good energy into the house. This is not just a temporary holiday thing but something bigger, and the impact of doing it will be greater, in our hearts and theirs.
Focusing on the best attributes of the holidays is a great way to move forward. So is letting go of the past. Letting go is one of the healthiest things you can do for your head and heart. If we could only learn to let go faster and with more power, we would be more content with our lives, and a lot of things that used to bug us (because they triggered old issues) would lose their powerful grip.
Letting go may be the single greatest mental health exercise and holiday gift you can give yourself, and only you can do it. Reading and talking about it isn’t enough. You have to reach down to the depths of your soul and pull up the strength to get rid of the old habit of hanging on.
Start with yourself and let go of all the things you are angry with about yourself. Those missed opportunities, those times you embarrassed yourself, and that time when you hurt someone you truly loved— let them go. We all hold on to things we wish we’d done differently, but if you can let go of being angry with yourself about them, it will open up a whole new world for you.
Forgiving others is part of the process as well, but you need to forgive yourself first. Once you feel free of your own past, then you can open yourself up to forgiving those you feel have wronged you. That too will make your life better and a little sweeter.
Not holding on to negative feelings about yourself and others is a great gift to yourself (and perhaps your family members). The results will make the holidays and the year to come better, no matter what else is going on in the world.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning psychotherapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of eight books and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with more than 28 million readers. He is available for video consults worldwide. Reach him at email@example.com. His column appears Saturdays and Mondays in the News-Press.