Brittany is joining her family at a ritzy ski resort in Park City, Utah. Jessica is crafting homemade candies and cookies with her sister. And Instagram just informed you that your middle school crush is flying first class en route to Mexico, where he’ll be spending Christmas stretched across the hot white sand alongside his latest supermodel conquest. Everywhere you turn—at the coffee shop, in the park, in the shopping malls, and on the cluttered city sidewalks–there are lovers dressed in cozy holiday attire, clutching their lattes and shopping bags, leaning in for a sexy embrace. It feels like mistletoe is hanging everywhere, but you’ve got no use for it. You may be trying with all of your might to anchor the jolly, but this year it feels like the jolly isn’t getting the memo.
Enter Hallmark movies–faithfully serving up a cheesy, predictably whimsical holiday ideal for our small screens. There are the quaint towns with their painted neighborhoods, the friends shrieking with laughter about nothing at all, and the carols that resound while lights are strung around the Christmas tree. And don’t forget the effortlessly beautiful girl sliding on a shimmering party dress and sexy heels for a perfect New Year’s Eve with her impossibly perfect date. Every scene may feel so hilariously far from the truth of how your holiday season is playing out. Because your life is for sure not like a movie script–especially those of the Hallmark variety.
So, if your mind is wandering to the loved ones you lost, or the relationship that failed despite how much you invested, or the dead-end career you feel trapped inside of, or the money you still don’t have to spend on your children, it’s time to hit the pause button on your fretting. As the year’s final curtain prepares to close, and as you carry the load of shame about the resolutions you never realized, we’ve got some worthy remedies. Although Hallmark movies are an indulgent guilty pleasure, you won’t find any of its offerings here—no tales of sappy reunions, serendipitous encounters or lovers conveniently trapped in fake snowy blizzards. Ahead are real and useful ways to create beauty, possibility and renewal this season. Maybe even celebration.
Consider being a decorating rebel this holiday season.
No one is forcing you to display that ancient Christmas village or those hand-me-down stuffed snowmen–even if it’s how you’ve decorated for nearly a decade. This year, ask yourself: What feels good to me right now? What will make my home feel comforting and festive–like the haven I need it to be? Maybe you’ll feel inclined to hang a simple wreath on your door or fill a shelf with avant garde gold candles, and ceramic angels, and glittery pine cones.
If you have a family or roommate you share a space with, perhaps find one room or one corner of your home that is all yours—where you can be as unapologetically rebellious as you dare to be.
Craft a festive spread filled with foods that satiate your soul.
Some occasions call for meeting your fruit and vegetable requirements, but others call for dining on foods that bring nourishment to your soul. What about the buttery popcorn that conjures memories of curling up and watching old black and white reruns with your grandfather? Or the toffee brownies like the ones your favorite babysitter made? Or perhaps an exotic dish that enlivens your sense of inventiveness or exploration? Craft a menu that serves as an incantation for comfort, safety, adventure, or inspiration–whatever is most beckoning for your soul’s attention.
Curate a smashing holiday playlist for your ears only.
Researchers have explored the connection between music and human emotion for centuries, and we know that our favorite songs transcend a mere aural experience. Certain types of music stimulate the release of oxytocin–our most comforting love hormone.
So, this holiday season, fill a Spotify playlist with tunes that feel as though they were composed from a dimension of delight, divinity or sensuality—a place where dreams go to be born and to thrive. Consider classics from Billie Holiday, Etta James, Sam Cooke, and Bill Withers—just to name a few. Make sure each one resonates with the parts of yourself that evoke enchantment, hope and optimism.
Considering stepping off of the social media state.
You friend Brittany may be packing her bags for her ski trip, and Jessica may be pouring chocolate chips into the cookie bowl–and they may look crushingly adorable in every frame as they document it for their Instagram stories, but remember you’re not getting the complete picture. No one’s life is SnapChat-worthy every minute of the day–even if their home is lit up like a wonderland.
If you chronically compare the state of your life with the social media stages of your friends, go ahead and unplug from the digital pageant for a day or two. Maybe try stepping into the real world for a solid 48 hours–smelling flowers, meeting an old friend for coffee, repotting your plants, rearranging your closets, or going out for pizza and a movie–with no intention of documenting a second of it. Do the things that intrigue you or excite you–simply for the sake of living them.
Bravely know when saying “No” is the better decision.
You may have someone in your life who asks that you lend them a hand, and who then expects both of your arms and legs, and droves of your advice, expertise, and generosity. This holiday season, boundaries are essential if you want to encourage joy and renewal.
If you’re exhausted from work presentations, or inundated with your kids’ fundraisers and school activities, or if your heart is simply in need of some respite and repair, you’ve got to learn to ration out your energy and time. This means saying “yes” to the things that feel right, but respectfully declining the things that add to your junk pile of anxiety. What does this include? Saying “no” to the favor that requires driving across congested freeways, and rejecting the phone call that always swallows your entire evening—time you need to wrap that closet full of presents, or unwind with a glass of wine and a stretch across the sofa with your dog.
Plan ahead to set guilt-free boundaries with nosey, toxic family members.
Holiday gatherings often roll out opportunities to engage with family members you spend the other part of the year avoiding. This means you should prepare yourself to be hit with invasive questions about your career, your love life, your children (or lack thereof), your plans for the future—so many of the discomforting topics you may still be figuring out.
Here’s a new mindset to adopt: Whether asked in a spirit of good intentions or not, you do not owe anyone an update about anything you do or do not have—especially not someone you only see once or twice a year. If someone asks, “How’s your love life going?” instead of doling out the dirt, respond by asking them, “I don’t know, how’s yours?”
Remember that, no matter how ‘Bah Humbug’ you may feel, you’re far from alone…
There is no immunization from times of grief, loneliness and turbulence. And, even if depression or insecurity tries to convince you that you’re isolated in your state of stagnance or unhappiness, it isn’t true.
You may feel like you’re standing on the outside looking in at everyone in their party dresses, toasting to the accomplished pasts and even more promising futures, but what you see may not be the truth. Take a chance on being honest with a friend or a mentor about how you’re feeling–you may be shocked at what they are moving through.
Write a letter of goodbye to whatever you wish to leave behind in this decade.
All of those things you held onto in 2019 that kept you shackled? It’s time to bid your farewell to them. Maybe it’s your habit of overspending on shoes, or your obsession with a certain person who has never reciprocated your affections, or a bitter vendetta you’ve held against that family member who wronged you. Whether a person, an emotion or a negative thought pattern, prepare to tell it goodbye. Hurl all of your disappointment, and rage, and regret onto the page and feel it leave your body. It’s a new decade–you’ve got bigger things to do and have no more tolerance for carrying around dead baggage.
Because now is the time to create new intentions & begin fulfilling them–for real this time.
In an article published by U.S. News in 2015, it was reported that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by Valentine’s Day. Rather than letting that arrest you with thoughts like, “Well, what then is the point?” experiment with a strategy you’ve never considered before.
Make a list of all of the things you intended to achieve this year, then divide them into two separate lists–one that houses all of the things you completed, and another that houses all that you fell short of completing.
Next, study the first list and make a statement congratulating yourself on each of those accomplishments. High-five yourself—maybe even make a toast to your own bloody awesomeness. Then, dissect the second list, sans judgment and self-loathing. Write out how you may shake hands with each of them in a different way in the coming year. Introduce yourself to each of the tasks, being honest about where you’re at and where you plan to be, and begin to see them as friends instead of elusive strangers.
Dream up clever, inventive and playful modes of mingling with those goals in the New Year. Let the inspirations come to you–luring you and dazzling you. May the droves of new possibility make your toes tingle.