3 Simple Questions to Cultivate Holiday Wellbeing

holiday wellness

Sree Mitra

December 15, 2023

Author: Dr Steve Hickman

As the song goes, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year” for many of us. (Stay tuned for a separate blog on how to cope when the holidays are NOT the most wonderful time of the year for you).

Without a doubt, these days, and nights, are traditionally filled to the brim with festivities, shopping, cooking, commitments, eye candy, real candy, music, merriment and a dollop of liquid holiday cheer to top it all off. A chance to celebrate, connect, and practice generosity, gratitude and awe together with our friends and family. It’s all good stuff, right? But it’s a LOT of stuff as well. If you’ve previously found yourself at the end of the season feeling depleted, wrung out, regretful and a tad bit heavier, then you know why a different approach to the holidays might be in order for 2023.

So many things that happen this time of year are based on tradition, ritual, habit and social expectations, that we can often find ourselves carried away by it all without really acknowledging that a more deliberate, thoughtful, reflective approach might help us choose more wisely and we may end up being entertained, enriched, and even energized by the season instead of just frazzled and exhausted. 

Here are three simple questions to ask yourself throughout the season as opportunities loom:

Is this an obligation or an opportunity?

We do so many things this time of year because we’ve “always” done them, or because they are considered a family or office “tradition.” But if we sort out each activity into obligations and opportunities, then we can make important decisions about where we spend our limited energy and attention. Often we say “yes” to virtually everything out of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) rather than true desire to participate, or because we don’t want to disappoint others. However, this year, maybe think of it this way – every time we say “no” to something that doesn’t really feed us, it allows us to say “yes” to the things we truly treasure. This has the added benefit of allowing us to show up more fully and alert for those things we love, and enjoy them more!

And about FOMO? How about shifting your perspective mindfully and practicing JOMO (Joy Of MIssing Out) instead. You may thank me later!

What do I need right now?

This is the fundamental question of self-compassion and is a question we don’t ask ourselves often enough. If you pause amidst the plethora of opportunities and holiday forks in the road, you can overcome the brain’s tendency toward autopilot by tuning in to what’s happening inside you just now and what would best suit you. Perhaps you usually go shopping with colleagues for the office gift exchange and combine that with a bit of bar-hopping just for fun. You’ve enjoyed this in the past, but perhaps you’re feeling a bit more pensive and reflective this year, and are craving a little quiet time at home with holiday music playing in the background as you curl up with a glass of wine and wrap presents. These are the moments that fill our tanks and warm our hearts.

So instead of giving in to what you’ve always done, pause… think… and decide intentionally what is it that YOU need this time around, right now.


Is this in the spirit of the season?

Regardless of the holiday you celebrate or the tradition in which you grew up, this is a special time of year that has bigger significance than shopping, partying, decorations and baking. If someone asked us “What’s the reason for the season?”, we could probably answer that question easily, but how often are we keeping that reason in mind as we make our way through the holiday wonderland of our lives these days? We get into habitual mode and just do what comes along because it seems fun, or distracting or delicious in some other way. And perhaps those things are indeed enjoyable, but what if we let there be a common thread going through our holiday choices that aligns us with the deeper intentions of the season?

Try articulating what YOUR belief about the reason for the season, and then writing it on a Post-It note or saying it out loud or texting it to yourself. Find a way to remind yourself daily (or even more often) of this guiding principle to help you cherish a beautiful holiday experience that fills your cup with good cheer and stays true to who you are as a person.

Here’s a tip: You can have your voice assistant of choice remind you of it every morning.

Wrapping It Up 

Asking these simple questions now and then throughout this festive season can really help you sort through the sometimes chaotic and overwhelming opportunities that present themselves to so many of us. But in the midst of it all, don’t lose track of your natural human curiosity and creativity. What is out there to discover that you haven’t tried, explored or tasted before? What have you always wanted to do at the holidays (bake a family tradition dessert, volunteered at a food bank, attend Midnight Mass) but never quite got around to it?

Make a new mindful tradition for yourself or for your family that expands your horizons and reminds you of your connection to everyone else celebrating the season. You’ll be glad you did. Happy Holidays!

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