Joy! Joy! Joy?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-12-19 21:05:59 -0600
Started 2011-12-12 17:55:00 -0600

What are your holidays looking like so far?

Past memories, good ones and not so good ones. Demands, some realistic and others not realistic, some coming from you, some coming from others. Your schedule, maybe too much going on, or maybe not much at all.

Where is the joy?

Someone asked me that question today. And I thought about how, during the holiday season, I always spend a lot of time talking to people about how to get it all done, how to say no, how to keep holiday stress down. Basically, how to get through the holidays – and get them over with.

What this made me consider is that, in the process of taking care of ourselves during the holidays, it’s easy to become so focused on avoiding stress – “surviving” – that we lose sight of the joy.

So it just seem like a good idea to take a minute and share some ideas with you about having a little more joy in life.

First, how are YOU defining joy? Lots of wild and crazy fun? Lots of people around you? Lots of great “stuff?” Joy doesn’t have to be about lots of anything. Joy isn’t about being giggly or super-positive or swimming in abundance. It’s about feeling calm, at peace, accepting of the triumphs, the challenges, the disappointments and the sorrows of life, understanding that there is more to life than meets the eye. Joy begins inside of you: activities that give you pleasure, doing things that give meaning to your life, giving of yourself to others, listening to music, spending time with the most important people in your life, spending time on your own. So, I will ask it again. What does your joy look like?

Fewer expectations equals more joy. Decide to let the people around you be who they are going to be. We are all human, in spite of our best intentions. People will break promises, not show up when they said they would, not behave in the way we think they should. The holidays can bring out the best in us, but also the not so best. And the stress and over-commitments of the holidays can throw anybody off. Celebrate the qualities that you appreciate the most. Remember that old Beatles song? Let it be!

Trim the money tree. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the more-more-more this time of the year, as the marketers try to drill into us the misperception that the more money we spend, the more we will be loved. Decide what you can spend and set limits. Let the people you spend money on, and with, know what you can and can’t do. You’re not in a competition here. While you’re at it, find other ways to show your love, other ways to give. Do gifts have to be about money? How about offering to help someone clean their closets? An evening of babysitting? The holidays are a great time to celebrate togetherness, and that doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Pick your battles. The holidays mean interacting with a lot of different people, including friends and family members who have their own idea about what the holidays should look like, their own holiday traditions, their own expectations. Somewhere along the way what they want is going to be different from what you want. See the conflict on the horizon? Take a step back and ask yourself: “Do I have to be right all the time? Is this worth fight for (and about)? Use the holidays as a time to practice patience, to focus on the joy of the holidays, and not sweating all the small stuff. In other words, joy isn’t about being right.

While you’re at it. Consider starting some new traditions. Tired of all the family gift buying? The big dinner at your place? Maybe it’s time to think outside of the box, to consider making some changes to the usual holiday routine, like a gift grab bag, or low cost fun gifts, or no gifts. And maybe a potluck dinner. Just think: you may not be only one who would like to do things differently this year. But you may be the only one brave enough to start the discussion.

Lighten up on yourself. Have some compassion. Remind yourself that you are facing a lot of challenges and that you are doing the best you can. You can only do what you can do. You are going to make some mistakes along the way. You aren’t always going to be perfect. You’re human. If you stop being so hard on yourself you will also be more likely not to be so hard on others.

Ignore the green-eyed monster. It’s hard not to look around over the holidays and compare yourself to other people, and wonder why they seem to having such a fun, stress-free holiday when you aren’t. And to feel a little envious. Everybody’s on their own path in life, you’re on your path, other people are on theirs. Instead of being envious, celebrate the joy that is in the world over the holidays, and the different ways that joy is being expressed. Remind yourself that joy can be loud, and joy can be quiet.

Watch your self-care. The need to take the best possible care of yourself doesn’t take a break over the holidays. Get enough rest. Watch your diet. Schedule breaks. While you’re at it, say no when you need to. Your first priority is still you.

Celebrate yourself! Regardless of whether you have people in your life over the holidays who give you joy, or grief, or some of both, there is one person that you can celebrate with: yourself. Do things you enjoy. Treat yourself to a movie. Turn off the phone and listen to music or watch a holiday movie. Go people-watching. Give yourself permission to just hang out for while.

Find something to smile about. Or someone to smile at. Instead of waiting to feel like smiling, try smiling and let the feelings catch up. Try setting the mood in your house by being the first to smile. Try smiling at the people you interact with when you are out running errands. You might even try to put the smile in your voice when you’re on the phone. Everybody’s a little stressed this time of year. See if you can change the mood. As I always say, we are all in this together.

Make a spiritual connection. Regardless of your specific religious or spiritual tradition, the holidays are a time to get in touch with the spiritual side of life. Considering the greater meaning in life. Connecting with what is really important. Reviewing the year. And getting involved in the traditions of your religious community if you belong to one. What’s a better way to experience inner joy?

Joy! Joy! Joy! Find your own path to joy this holiday season. And have a joyful holiday!

11 replies

eristar 2011-12-19 05:50:55 -0600 Report

What a wonderful article. Thank you!
This year I am feeling more quiet joy than I have in some time. At this same time last year, I was in constant pain, wheelchair bound, recently diagnoses with D2, and basically miserable following spinal surgery which did nothing to help my pain or paralysis. Lots of hard therapy this year has made a huge difference - I am able to walk unassisted, and have been off all the pain meds for months now. I find myself smiling frequently, comparing the me from a year ago and the me here today, and am grateful every day. My numbers reflect this, as well - another thing to be thankful for! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-12-19 21:05:59 -0600 Report


Oh wow! You have really been through a lot this year and you are ending the year with a big success. You absolutely must have done a lot of hard work. This is amazing. Congratulations!!! And thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

Have a wonderful Christmas!


'Second Chance'
'Second Chance' 2011-12-18 21:47:38 -0600 Report

Truly, Dr. Gary, we must find the 'reason for the season'!! We all can have that unspeakable JOY!! 0nce we realize that it's ours for the asking, that's when we will find true JOY!! I want to thank you for such an inspiring message before the most "JOYFUL" holiday of the season!!! "JOY TO THE WORLD"!!!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-12-19 21:02:36 -0600 Report

HI! Thank you for much for your kind and inspiring words. And I hope that you have a wonderful holiday, too!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-12-19 21:02:34 -0600 Report


Thank you for much for your kind and inspiring words. And I hope that you have a wonderful holiday, too!


GabbyPA 2011-12-12 19:55:19 -0600 Report

There are so many GREAT points in here. I have the holidays, but I also have 5 birthdays in december. It can be a zoo. But having fun is always my goal. Being goofy is my back up.

One of the points you made that I love is "Celebrate Yourself" and that is vital. If you cannot do that, how can you expect to share any joy with others? You have to be happy with you, love you, care for you...then everything else is an overflow of that. It is magical.

One of the new traditions we have started is picking from a hat the name of the person who will be your "receiver" next year. We give ourselves an entire year to look for just one person and that was a HUGE relief for us. Times are tight, and it feels good to give a meaningful gift for that one. Easier on the pocketbook and nerves.

I love the cards. Even more than gifts sometimes as they are filled with words that come from the heart. I always try to share personal things in my cards and know that simple things like that can really change the direction of a day for people. Words are great things when used right.

Young1s 2011-12-18 21:09:30 -0600 Report

That is really nice Gabby. I myself have 3 birthdays to celebrate in December and wallets do get stretched. As I read your reply though, it occured to me that your birthday solution can be applied to Christmas as well. People have secret santas at work, why not at home? When tmes are tight this may be a good way to share a gift with family/friends, without breaking the bank.

GabbyPA 2011-12-19 07:38:56 -0600 Report

That is what we did this year. Each of us drew a name last year after we opened our stockings at the breakfast table. So I had a year and it helped a lot. I would pick up things as needed. So that this time is was just to get the "big" gift that maybe I had to save for a little bit.

I also had a party this week and we had a grab bag where everything was a dollar. Thank goodness for Dollar Tree! LOL. But they were practical and little thoughtful things that people could use. Not a little knick-nack that would end up in a garage sale.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-12-18 19:24:55 -0600 Report

Hi Gabby!

Thanks a lot for your reply, and your words of wisdom, as always!

5 birthdays in December? Wow, maintaining the fun in the middle of all of that must be a challenge.

Giving each other a full year is a great idea. It leaves you much less likely to have to make a last second decision that you aren't happy with, and that much less stress.

You're right about the cards. I have as usual saved mine until the last minute, but that is my job for the rest of the evening.

I am celebrating you, too! I hope the days leading up to Christmas are joyful!


GabbyPA 2011-12-19 07:42:50 -0600 Report

Fortunately, only two of them are close enough to have to plan much. The others can suffice with a hug and some well wishes.

To be honest, we all have a year to plan for Christmas giving. We just tend to not do it. Some people love the stress and thrill of the hunt on Black Friday. Not me. I like to be done and ready to enjoy the season. There are deals to be had all year and it just takes a little planning and is a lot easier on the pocket book because you are not in panic mode to get things. That is when we over do it usually.

I hope you have a most enjoyable season as well. I like christmas, but I really like the new year and the starting all over again. What a difference a day makes. LOL

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-12-19 17:48:24 -0600 Report

I am also a procrastinator on gifts. I probably end up making too much work out of it. I am not a shopper either. I saw the line at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening and was glad I was only passing by.

I will catch up with you in 2012!

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