The holidays can be a time for joy, happiness, appreciation but they can also trigger sadness, depression, and remind us of things we are missing. These feelings are so common they have a name — the Holiday Blues.
Around this time of the year, I frequently encounter clients who are struggling with loss in their family, financial issues, mental health, etc. They often ask me what they can do to get out of their funk. On top of therapy, medication, proper nutrition, and physical activity the main thing we need to do when we are struggling is to avoid isolation. When we are down and we isolate ourselves it escalates those negative feelings.
Turn negative into positive
Doing something nice for others by giving part of yourself helps to get people out of isolation and feel good when they see the joy of others. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the way we are spending our days.
It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile.
If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:
National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org
Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org
Create The Good: http://createthegood.org
Certain emotions frequently show up in science and the media as “negative” emotions. We all know them as sadness, anger, disgust, frustration, etc. Then there are the “positive” emotions—happy, excited, etc. Instead of classifying an emotion as “negative” or “positive” how about we just start calling it by what it actually is?
We are sending the message that emotions are bad.
When we classify an emotion as negative, we are sending the message that it is bad. That we aren’t supposed to feel this way. It makes us feel guilty about having these so-called “negative” emotions. No one wants to feel “negatively” or do the “wrong” thing. But an emotion isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong to feel a certain way. We need to stop grouping them together as a set and refer them to as an individual feeling. Yes, I am sad that my grandfather is in the hospital. Yes, I am disappointed I didn’t get the job. Yes, I am frustrated that the dog had an accident in the living room this morning. This is life, folks.
These emotions are ok, they are healthy, they are necessary. We don’t need to pretend that we don’t feel this way. We don’t need to feel guilty or that we are doing something bad by feeling upset or disappointed. Rather we need to let the emotions come. We need to feel them, accept them, allow ourselves to work through them. What we don’t need to do is ignore them. That only compounds the situation and makes things eventually erupt. So instead of thinking about emotions as “negative” or “positive,” think of them simply as an emotion. Leave it at that. There is no need for classification.
There is a difference between being nice and being genuinely kind. Being nice is on the surface. It is superficial, pleasing, and agreeable. It is making people happy around you but not necessarily meaning it. It is not authentic, not deep, and not always true.
Being kind goes deeper
Rather than “being nice” as you have been told since you were a child, practice kindness. Being kind goes deeper. It is the practice of being compassionate and authentic. It is establishing healthy boundaries and truly meaning what you say, what you do. When we reach the point of just “being nice” we are damaging our relationships and creating unhealthy situations for ourselves. Running errands for a neighbor “just to be nice” or volunteering at an event “just to be nice” establishes unhealthy boundaries.
When we, instead, do things out of deep-seeded kindness from within, it means we genuinely care about what we are doing. We have a vested interest in how things turn out and the people around us can see that. It means we aren’t just doing things because we feel like we have to, we are doing them because we really truly want to do them. We really want to bring the neighbor dinner, we really want to help with the shopping for the school event, we want to help a friend out with a project, or hold the door open for a stranger.
Avoid teaching your children to “just be nice.” Instead, explain to them what it means to be kind and to establish healthy boundaries with that kindness. Teach them how it feels to truly be helpful and to want to do good things for others. In turn, you are teaching them to be genuine, to be truthful and to take care of themselves. You are not teaching them to overextend themselves for the mere purpose of “being nice.” You are teaching them to dig deep inside themselves and determine what they can do to be good people, not superficial or fake.
It might feel like a thin line but chances are you can think of a few times in your life you have just been nice and differentiate between the times you truly meant what you were doing—those times you were being kind.
How do you practice kindness?