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Holiday Season: The Happiness Challenge

The journey to adulthood is paved with countless moments of childhood.

In a child we see innocence, wonder, hope, and unknowing dependency. Oftentimes, in reflecting on our childhood, we find precious memories of meaning coupled with the ache of desires unfulfilled for the child we once were.

Leo Tolstoy begins his greatest novel Anna Karenina with a stunner line, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Happy moments are often fleeting, and unhappy moments feel like they will continue in perpetuity. What is painful about holiday memories is that it is difficult to separate the happy moments from the unhappy ones—because as children we are not capable of making those distinctions; and, as adults, we can get stuck between feeling ungrateful and resentful, so we give up altogether between honoring what was and what was not for the child we were.

With the added pressure of what the holiday season brings, conflict, misaligned expectations, and disappointing loved ones seem unavoidable. Financial pressure, gift giving, travel, extended time with family and friends can pull us apart internally, resulting in a sigh of relief when the season is over.

Rather than getting through this holiday season, I challenge you to go deeper into the desires of your heart as a means of bringing together the child you were and the adult you are.

Guided Meditation:

  • Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.
  • Take a deep breath and let it go.
  • Let your mind quiet and your body relax.
  • Think of a time as a child during the holiday season when you felt especially seen and loved. If you cannot think of one, imagine what that would have looked like for you as a child.
  • How old are you? Where are you? Who is with you? What are you seeing? What are you feeling?
  • Whatever emotions come up, let yourself feel them. Notice it with curiosity and acceptance.
  • Notice what else is happening as you sit with this image. What is it that makes you feel seen and loved? Or, if something else came up for you, what was lacking that made you feel unseen?
  • Notice if you can be with your child self now. Notice if your adult self can be with your child self.
  • Is there anything you want to say or do with that child?
  • Is there anything you want to continue for that child? Is there anything you want to change for that child? Again, just notice with acceptance whatever it is you feel and desire.
  • Stay as long as you need to with that child.
  • When that child is ready for you to leave, take a deep breath, let it go, and move your body around.

Notice what emotions, observations, and memories came up for you. See if you can reflect on that more deeply with your adult self. See if you can let that be the focus for your holiday season. See if you can let go of everything else in terms of expectations and pressure and give yourself the holiday season that honors who you are when you feel seen and loved—because the best gift for the people in your life is you.

*This article was initially published by Therapy With Heart and is republished with permission.

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