Success on the Far Side of Fifty is intended to be of assistance for anyone who needs it, and I truly want to do my best to help people improve the quality of their lives. I wrote How to overcome the Christmas blues in an attempt to help those who need it most. I know there are those among us who struggle this time of year and I write this post for them. Instead of facing the holidays with hope and happiness, they face it with sadness and sometimes depression.
According to the National Institute of Health, the Christmas season is a time of desperation for many. Mental Health professionals report significant increases in the numbers of people complaining of depression. Paramedics report increased incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. One study I heard about (but have been unable to locate) indicates that up to 45% of people experience some degree of sadness or depression during the holiday season.
There are many drivers behind this phenomenon including;
Seasonal effective disorder (a general lack of sunlight), social isolation (loneliness), loss of a loved one (recently or in the past), excessive demands or expectations to attend or host social events, over indulgence in food or alcohol, lack of sleep, arguments, family disagreements and financial pressures.
Regardless of the cause I feel badly for anyone who is feeling down and depressed at any time of year, particularly at Christmas.
Recognizing that this time of year is truly a challenge for some folks I offer a list of tips and tactics to get you back on the road to happiness. Here are my tips on;
How to overcome the Christmas blues
1.) If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself please phone 911 or get help from a medical professional.
While I am all about self-help and extreme ownership of our lives I recognise that there are times when people just can’t make it on their own.
If you feel you are in such a state please seek professional medical care. Recognise that there are always resources to help, even when you feel there aren’t.
2.) Get some exercise
A 20 minute walk, five times per week is proven to do wonderful things for depression and sadness. Exercise stimulates release of your body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
THIS article published on the Harvard Medical School website states that studies have shown that walking fast for 35 minutes five times a week (or 60 minutes three times per week) had a significant (positive) impact on mild to moderate depressive symptoms. The same article states that exercise might even be an acceptable substitute for antidepressants such as Zoloft. (The article also says antidepressants work more quickly, but that exercise may last longer and has many fewer side effects)
3.) Spend time outdoors
One driver behind holiday season sadness and depression is a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In layman’s terms S.A.D. is largely caused by a lack of sunlight.
The cure is simple; strive to get 30 minutes of sunlight each and every day, other therapies include spending time under full spectrum lights, or even taking vitamin D.
A longer article talking about Seasonal Affective disorder can be found HERE on this article on the Webmd website.
4.) Spend time laughing
It is a fact that people can only hold one emotion at a time and no one needs permission to laugh.
But here is where the advice really kicks in. Instead of waiting for something funny to happen (which may take a long time) go looking for something funny.
While I am not usually a guy who touts the value of television or computers I love the fact that there is so much fun and entertainment available at the click of a button. A quick search on Youtube will provide something for everyone. Everything is available from sitcoms to live comedy and funny animal videos.
One of my favorite quotes about humor was created by Laura Ingalls Wilder and reads;
“A good laugh overcome more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.”
5.) Start a gratitude journal
A major cause of sadness and depression is the feeling that nothing is going well.
Spending just 5 minutes per day on a gratitude journal has been proven to boost overall levels of happiness by 20%.
The science is simple, the act of writing down three things we feel grateful for means we have to notice the things that are going well and we get to relive the positive emotions that go along with the positive things in our lives.
6.) Listen to happy music
For most people music is a huge mood booster.
Find some of your favorite music and rock it.
The effect of music is much more than positive psychology. The impact of music has been well-studied by prestigious institutions such as McGill University who have scientifically proven that music triggers the release of another feel good chemical called dopamine.
If you want to read a great article on this subject read THIS article from on the National Geographic website.
7.) Do something nice for someone else
Doing positive deeds is one of the very best ways to elevate your happiness.
THIS article by the University of California, Berkeley demonstrates the power of doing good deeds.
The act of doing good deeds causes the body to release dopamine, a feel good chemical that creates a heightened sense of euphoria. Good deeds also trigger the release of oxytocin the neurotransmitter associated with peace and tranquility.
The short version is that doing good things for other people is a great way to feel better.
8.) Connect with other people
One of the greatest causes of sadness around Christmas is loneliness.
The feeling of social isolation causes negative emotions at any time of the year. But during the Christmas season the feelings of loneliness are often much more acute.
As strange as it may seem loneliness and social isolation often occurs in the presence of other people. Loneliness doesn’t always occur because we are alone; it occurs when we don’t feel connected to people, even if those people are present.
The art of connecting with other people is really rather simple. It’s all about communication and interest. If you want to connect with other people, consider these simple steps;
Don’t be afraid to make the first move. This is where most lonely people go wrong; they wait for other people to make the first move. Social people are always connecting with other people. This helps to maintain old connections and make new ones. Pick up the phone or pay someone a visit.
Be interested in other people. Dale Carnegie said it best in this quote;
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
By taking the time to learn about people you can find the things that you have in common and that is always a great way to create connection.
Finally join a community of interest. If you really want to build social connection find people who are interested in the same things as you. As an example; many of my closest friends have come as a result of connections I have made through my hobbies.
While I know that there are many people who suffer during the Christmas season also believe that the antidote for much of our suffering lays within each of us.
In life there are always choices. In this case the choice is, once again relatively simple.
Each of us has the power to take our destiny within our own hands and choose to make each day better than the one before.
If you want even more ideas on how to lead a happier life checkout THIS post called;
If you want to be a happier person read this post.
The name says it all.
As always thank you very much for reading Success of the Far Side of Fifty. Please feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment if there is anything I can do for you.
Here’s hoping you have a great week and remember that the power to change is within your hands.