Finding Joy in the Holidays


December 16, 2020

Find the joy in this holiday season with mindfulness

Truth and advertising often don’t go together. But the other day, I received a catalog from a clothing company emblazoned with a slogan I wholeheartedly support.

The catalog’s headline read: “If ever there was a year that needed Christmas, this is it.”

You can add Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and holiday happenings – ranging from drinking mulled wine to exchanging gifts – to the list of celebrations and merriment we all need right now. More than ever, we need a dose of holiday joy.

How can we find joy in a year of such unprecedented calamity? It seems to be hiding from so many of us who are suffering amid an agonizingly long pandemic.

And, yet, even amid difficulty, joy is present. It’s like the sun – a shining star that only temporarily retreats behind the cloud cover.

Of course, like anything we may have lost – car keys, a favorite scarf, or, occasionally, a child in the supermarket – we might need to look for joy.

Where to Find (Or Re-Find) Joy

Having a mindfulness practice helps. One of the many gifts of mindfulness is the ability to concentrate on what we deem relevant. And we can make a mindfulness practice out of focusing on joy – whether it quietly arrives when we take our first sip of morning coffee or boldly chases away the cold, filling the room with warmth and wellbeing when we light the fireplace. The more we pay attention to moments of joy in our daily lives, the more joy we feel. It’s a nifty little formula that has a lasting multiplier effect.

The other night, for example, my husband and I made a rare outing in locked-down Los Angeles to buy a Christmas tree. It’s a beloved annual event that ushers in the holiday season for our family. It’s also a mixed bag of an experience with tree trunks that frustratingly don’t fit into tree stands, shedding needles that hide in carpets for months and tree limbs that knock over vases.

And, yet, there’s lots of joy. There’s the convivial small talk with the tree vendor and the back-and-forth teamwork to tie the tree to the car’s roof. There are the Christmas tree lights and ornaments with their small gestures of love and memories. There’s also my ability to savor and take in the happiness of every fleeting moment.

Sometimes, periods of great difficulty can make moments of joy stand out just like a Christmas tree. In times of trial, we might find ourselves treasuring our relationships and appreciating those who support us more – from the grocery store clerk to the delivery person bringing us pizza and packages. Pausing and reflecting on all of that might make you a bit more joyful. And, if not, here are a few tips on how mindfulness can give you the gift of more delight this holiday season.

Mindfulness Tips for the Holidays

  • Slow Down and Savor: Unlike bold emotions such as fear or anxiety, joy is often more subtle. Much of the time, we need to slow down to notice and feel it. And whenever we do, it’s worth savoring so our bodies and brains recognize it whenever it arrives. Start small by noticing simple pleasures – a warm bath, a gentle laugh, or the cozy feeling of a well-worn sweater.
  • Hang Out with Joy’s Friends: Emotions such as appreciation or gratitude are like a red carpet for joy – they welcome its dazzling appearance. Practicing gratitude not only raises your well-being, it also opens your heart to the joy that’s available in your life. Beginning your day with a reflection on what you’re thankful for or writing down a weekly gratitude list is a worthy mindfulness practice to feel both gratitude and joy.
  • Use Difficulty to Highlight the Good: No one wants to experience difficulty or to suffer. But sometimes, periods of difficulty can deepen our appreciation for what might be right or even just okay in our lives. However small it may be, we can direct our attention to whatever good exists and coax joy out of the shadows of hardship to visit us, if only for a few moments.

Written by Kelly Barron