10 Positive Practices to Find Light in the December Darkness

4 min read

The blinking Christmas lights are up, joyful carols and that oh-so-annoying Mariah Carey song fill the air, and a familiar seasonal cheer seems to spread everywhere you go. Everyone must be overflowing with festive joy and cheer, right?

For many, the holiday season is actually a time of great darkness and depression. For those, the festive season does nothing more than highlight empty homes, fractured family relationships, loneliness, money problems, and a lack of time for self-care and reflection. Even without these additional stressors, the long winter months may trigger seasonal depression and hopelessness. It’s therefore not surprising that depression, alcoholism, suicide ideation, and drug use spike over the depression December season.

Yet although this is a dark time for some, it doesn’t mean that you must surrender to your discontent. Drawing from positive psychology, there are several research-backed tools and techniques that you can use to manage the additional emotional burden the holiday season places on you.

So let’s dim the lights, put on some relaxing music, and explore the 10 science-based techniques we can use to find light in the December darkness.

  1. Practice gratitude daily. Try and cultivate a daily habit of expressing gratitude. At the end of each day, reflect upon your day and write down three things that happened during the day that you were grateful for and why you are grateful for each. This helps shift your focus towards positive aspects of your life.
  2. Engage in mindful meditation. For five minutes each day, quiet your mind and try to meditate. This can help calm your anxiety and ground you in the present. Try active practices like mindful walking or use meditation apps to guide you through sessions.
  3. Practice random acts of kindness. Perform five small acts of kindness for others every day. This can be as simple as giving someone your place in the queue at the grocery store, offering a loved one a genuine compliment, or helping an older person cross the street. Helping others has been shown to boost your mood and make you feel valued.
  4. Do things that used to bring you joy as a child. Whether it’s watching your favourite movie, cooking a special meal, or indulging in a creative hobby you used to like as a kid, engage in activities that made you feel happy before.
  5. Maintain consistent sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise every day. Try and keep to good habits like sleeping 7-9 hours each night, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise, and eating at least one healthy meal each day. Find a form of exercise you enjoy, whether it’s walking, yoga, or dancing. Bonus points if you can engage in it outside!
  6. Practice self-compassion and self-kindness. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would if your closest friend was going through a tough time. Identify your negative thought patterns (like catastrophic thinking or overgeneralizing) and try to consciously shift these perspectives to see the positives. But remember, too, that it’s OK not to be OK.
  7. Limit your exposure to social media. Be mindful of your social media use. We tend to compare ourselves to others on social media, but when we’re already down, this can just make us feel worse.
  8. Write a letter to your past self. Pen a letter to your 10-year-old self, sharing your accomplishments and highlights of the year. Focus on the things that brought you joy and happiness. This will help bring balance and perspective.
  9. Spend time with friends and family. Try and spend time with loved ones; even if it feels like a burden to get the energy to go there. Use technology to your advantage—set up a video call, for instance, or play an online game with your friends. Spending time with others helps you feel more connected and appreciated.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. If the holiday blues persist, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. They can offer support and strategies to help navigate the challenges December can bring.

Although this can be a dark and challenging time of year, it does afford an opportunity for deep self-reflection and personal renewal. It’s the time of the year when you become more in tune with your own needs and prioritize yourself and your own mental well-being.

This holiday season, try focusing on setting small, attainable well-being goals, whether it be small acts of kindness, self-compassion, or taking a mindful walk. Small steps can lead to epic journeys; start yours today.

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