How to Be Happier this Holiday.

How to Be Happier this Holiday.
Truly we shouldn’t need a guide to being happier at a time of year known for its warmth, joy and wishes, right? But, there must be--and it’s all about managing such unrealistic expectations (while still maintaining the magic the season can offer).

Here is my guide to avoid some of the common emotional pitfalls the holidays can bring:

The Ones we Miss. The first holiday without someone we loved is a painful reminder of their absence. The sadness is heightened at this time of year when you would have been celebrating with them. I still cry when I think of my grandmother, sitting at our family’s countertop all dressed up in her smart red blazer with Christmas brooch, stirring her vodka martini!

I find an excellent outlet is to choose one ode to the missing, an offering or tribute, that honours them. A favourite meal, a toast, a candle lit, but it must be planned and executed in their honour and have finite boundaries. If you don’t have it planned, everything becomes a reminder, every meal and every moment feels heavy and all about your sadness. Don’t diminish their greatness or your own grief, but rather give them both the space they deserve, and leave the rest as opportunities for new joy.

2. Presents Overload. It’s not exclusive to women, but generally speaking the women do carry the lion’s share of the gift-buying. Which can be plentiful--what if your second cousin’s niece comes by to say hello? I always laugh that my husband gets to be surprised when everyone opens their gifts because he has no idea what we got for anyone! It is exhausting and expensive.

Let’s make a deal. If you aren’t certain of who you might be seeing over the holidays, or whether you and an old friend still exchange gifts, just lay out your hopes and intentions in the open. Gifts are such a wonderful way to show appreciation and love, but if you are lucky enough to have so many incredible people in your life, it can be overwhelming to demonstrate to them all. I’m not afraid to say, “Let’s have a coffee together, but not exchange gifts this year. Take the pressure off us both.” Or, “Can we agree on gifts only for the children this year?” If that’s not an option, suggest making a Secret Santa draw group, where a larger family or group of friends can draw names so everyone receives one present, and everyone only gives one present too. It’s fair, fun, and allows more focus on one person’s special gift. is a great help with this.

Another option is to give exclusively to charities that mean a lot to you or a loved one. It feels so good to give to those less fortunate, and it’s a beautiful gesture that isn’t driven by the frenzy of commercial retail. People will truly appreciate it. Little kids--not so much, but could be an important precedent to set!

3. Don’t sweat the small Stuff. My mother dropped the whole tray of potatoes before serving, my uncle yelled at my grandmother, the boy I was dating didn’t even reach out on the big day (not all in the same year)...Each of these events, while upsetting, didn’t define the entire engagement. An hour later we were all laughing about how my mother had slipped and the potatoes went flying!

Like a beautiful face, the magic of the holidays is so much more than the sum of its parts. Pick out the parts you like the best (the looks on the kids’ faces, the stuffing, the movie, the tradition of it all), and focus on them as a whole, as one of many happenings that create the holiday. Write them down too, early in the season, to remind you and to keep your happiness on track.

4. Loneliness. If you are alone on the holidays, the magic can feel like smugness, and the solitude can feel bottomless. If you must be alone, and don’t like to be alone, I suggest indulging yourself in moments, objects, and thoughts that spark joy within. That new blanket or coffee machine that you deserve, giving to others and bringing them happiness, a favourite movie on repeat, or an offbeat holiday playlist with tunes that aren’t all cheery or mistletoe-laden (may I suggest Counting Crows’ “Long December”, or Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy”.) Like in the rest of the calendar year, there are things that bring happiness to everyone. Just remember what those are and not who you are expected to be with this holiday. We like you just as you are (ok, that’s a Bridget Jones’ Diary reference. Add to watch list).

Wishing you to know how loved you are this season,

XO Lauren