Along with the joy of holiday lights, colorfully wrapped gifts, and family get-togethers, there are often some challenges that accompany this time of year.

Daniel Carlat, MD

Holidays, let’s face it, can bring difficult interactions, sad memories, and financial hiccups. Here are some tips from Dr. Daniel Carlat, medical director of psychiatry at MelroseWakefield Healthcare, to help you boost your level of well-being as the days get shorter, colder, and chock-full of holiday songs on the airwaves.

Practice gratitude.
Gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for some public speaking we do around the Thanksgiving table. Try to incorporate it into your daily life—beginning with the Holidays. A large body of scientific evidence documents that reserving some time to be grateful daily yields huge benefits in terms of well-being and self-esteem, and even physical health. Keep a gratitude journal. Thank your loved ones for the small things they do to make your life better.

Honor the departed.
With nearly one million Americans having died of COVID, so it is understandable that many of us will be saddened by a holiday season spent without a loved one. Transmute your feelings of grief into a celebration of your loved one’s life. Many Asian cultures create household shrines to honor ancestors, a practice that we can all adopt in whatever way makes sense, such as placing a photo on the mantel and offering a toast while listening to a song you both enjoyed.

Accept imperfection.
It’s okay if you started shopping too late to find that game console you promised your son or forgot to pick up the pie or you had a bad conversation with a family member (even though you had promised yourself you were going to be “nice”). You are a human being, and therefore you are imperfect, as are your friends and family members. Use the holidays to serve as a reminder to forgive and to accept yourself and others. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Embrace the magic of rituals.
The holidays are defined by rituals—the shopping, the special meals, the decorations, the travel. Preparation for them takes energy, time, and money, which can seem like chores to endure. Try to reframe them as miracles. It is at least somewhat miraculous that an entire nation decides that for a few weeks it will become obsessed with indoor trees, sparkling lights, and giving things to one another. It’s too bad it only comes around once a year!

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department immediately.

Ask for help if you are feeling persistently sad or hopeless, have a number of physical complaints, can’t sleep or feel unable to participate in normal activities, you may need to speak with a professional. Call your primary care provider or counselor and have an honest discussion with them about your feelings.

Tufts Medicine Formerly Wellforce

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