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A therapist’s tips for spending the holiday if you’re on your own

Not everyone’s holiday is merry and bright, but there are ways you can add a little joy

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Not every holiday season can be merry and bright. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one or your relationship is on the rocks. Those who were nearest and dearest are not available. Money may also be an issue, which is sad because the only thing better than getting presents is buying them for others. Whatever is going on, the holidays aren’t feeling so great this year.

I have had rock-hard holidays — and too many spent alone. It’s not easy, but I know it’s always better to be on your own than with someone who’s inappropriate. So if you are alone, give yourself a pat on the back, and know it’s OK to feel a little sad during the holidays. That said, if you want to feel some joy and have a laugh or two, get with some folks who understand you. Because the trick to enjoying the holidays is being around good people.

If money is an issue this year, start by thinking of what you would do if you could afford to do it. Whatever it is, figure out a way to give yourself some small part of that. For example, if you want to go to Italy but don’t have money, then enjoy a bottle of Italian wine with pasta. If you want, you can try your hand at more complicated Italian cooking. Watch a video on how they do the holidays in Italy and try a new idea.

Of course, this would all be more fun with a group, so invite someone over. If no one’s available, you can always volunteer to help feed the homeless or bring some holiday cheer to the snowbirds at your local assisted living community. I have volunteered many times to bring a little holiday cheer to others and found much to cheer me up in return.

Volunteering is giving of yourself. I promise that doing something for others will nurture the part of you that wants to feel good, and it will help you snap out of a bad mood, even if only for a few minutes. Trust me, negative energy is out there for the, and it won’t be hard to find. But you can choose to not look for it and instead heal your heart by letting a little joy in.

The holidays are almost always better with other humans. Many times, I’ve loaded up my sled and dropped off gifts to friends, stopping to visit for a spell before going to the next person’s house. Try it out. By the time you get home, you’ll be ready for a movie and some quiet time. If you’re alone this year and don’t want to be, spending even a small time with other people will help you sleep more peacefully.

If you believe that good intentions and the efforts we put out to others do return to us in some way, these actions will make your holidays bright.

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. is an award-winning psychotherapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of eight books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 35 million readers. He is available for in-person and video consults worldwide; reach him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com

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