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Healing the Holidays - Seven Keys to Creating a Fulfilling Holiday Experience by Dr. David Gruder

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NOTE: If you've already read the article below elsewhere, get your free set of “Fulfilling Holidays Planning Sheets” for implementing what you read by clicking HERE. If you've not yet read the article, read it below and then click on the link at the end of the article to get your free worksheets.


Holidays can activate powerful emotional charges, calling forth as much distress as joy. These “emotional charges” may be connected with past memories or with wishes you have in the present for yourself, and those you love. This article reveals practical strategies for creating a more fulfilling and less stressful holiday experience, no matter which holiday it happens to be: religious or cultural, or personal celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries of all kinds.

Holidays with strong emotional charges fall into three categories: family-focused, romantically-oriented & memorials:

  • Family-focused holidays include Christmas for Christians, the High Holy Days & Passover for Jews, Thanksgiving in the U.S. & Canada, and so forth.
  • Romantically-oriented holidays include New Years Eve, Valentines Day, and other holidays when you wish to have a partner by your side, such as an office holiday party.
  • Memorial holidays include national holidays of rembrance such as Veteran's Day, family memorials of deceased loved ones, and personal memorials of lost relationships.

Attending in a good way to the seven key dimensions below can help you create a nourishing holiday experience for yourself and those with whom you will be spending that holiday. Those seven key dimensions are:

1. CELEBRATIONS & PLAYFULNESS: Many holidays provide opportunities for both children and adults to come out and play. What kinds of activities would add fun and celebration to your holiday and with whom do you wish to spend it? Some long-standing traditions feel nourishing; sometimes, however, you'll want to create new traditions. Examples of playful celebration for holidays such as Christmas include parties, drives to the country, playing in the snow, caroling, tree decorating, attending concerts, etc.

2. SPIRITUAL EXPRESSION: Many holidays carry a deeper, more sacred, significance. Which activities help you express your spiritual connection to this holiday? Examples of spiritual expression include meditating, prayer, attending services or rituals that are part of your chosen religious or spiritual tradition, volunteering in a soup kitchen or making other donations to charity, reading stories about the origins of the holidays you're celebrating, etc.

3. REMEMBERING: You have probably noticed how some holidays can be particularly uncanny in their ability to invite old memories and recent losses to your awareness. You might find yourself remembering pleasant and painful holidays from your past. You might have experienced the death or loss of someone important to you over the past year. Others who are precious to you may be unable to be with you for this holiday. Because these issues come to the surface during the holidays, devote some time to honoring those people and memories. Set aside time, alone or with others, to remember those who you wish could be with you during this holiday and to grieve or honor those who have died or left your life this past year.

4. COMPLETING & LOOKING FORWARD: Some holidays, particularly those occurring toward the end of the year, offer natural opportunities to review the past year and set goals for the next. What goal-setting rituals feel nourishing to you to do, alone or with others? Examples of New Year rituals include doing a year-end review, expressing gratitude you feel for what you've learned over the past year, making amends with others, setting goals for the coming year, and expressing wishes you have for others and for the world in the coming year. Make plans for creating this holiday in a happier and/or more fulfilling way next year and forgiving yourself for what you didn't do this year. Remember that changing holiday traditions takes time - often years - to fine-tune!

5. GIVING & SPENDING: Many holidays are times of giving, and doing this can feel deeply nourishing. At the same time, it's important to not fall into the trap of over-giving. Over-giving includes spending more money on gifts than is wise for you, more energy cooking than your life balance allows, or too much time with people you'd rather not be with. Giving without regard to your own boundaries inevitably leads to resentment and exhaustion. An "Over-Giving Prevention Plan" can help: a commitment to pure giving out of love rather than contaminated giving out of guilt. Find your limits based on the life energy you have rather than “shoulds” or expectations. Pay attention not only to the total amounts of time and money you reasonably have, and within that to balancing the amount of time or money you devote to each particular task, activity or person. Here's the simplest measure of overgiving: if you notice yourself becoming resentful you're probably over-giving. What can you give and spend, and with whom, without resentment? How much money can you spend on gifts (or how much time can you spend making gifts) and sending holiday cards, and for whom, without becoming resentful? Allow yourself to get honest with yourself and live in alignment with your boundaries and your integrity.

6. PERSONAL RE-CENTERING ACTIVITIES: Holidays can have the nasty habit of compromising our life balance, both as we prepare for them and even as we celebrate them. The danger of neglecting the self-care activities that keep you centered and energized always lurks unless you remain mindful. Being true to your personal boundaries can help you maintain your self-care routines. Doing this will help make any holiday more joyous. Make specific self-care commitments to yourself ahead of time. It's okay to take “time-outs” from the family or the hustle and bustle. Going on regular walks (alone or with others you feel particularly nourished to be with), checking in with growth-oriented friends, going to support group meetings, journal writing and meditation, eating well, moving your body, and getting enough sleep, are all important parts of a wonderful self-care plan. Which self-care/re-centering activities work best for you?

7. PLANNING FOR GLITCHES: If you're like most people, you can can reasonably predict the hurts or other distress that you or those you know and love will feel, and/or fights that are likely to occur, around a specific holiday. Make a list ahead of time of the types of incidents you anticipate could occur and the specific new actions you are willing to take this year to take better care of yourself when or if these circumstances arise. Click here to read an article in which I offer you powerful tips for visiting your family without losing a grip on your own wellbeing.

I know from personal experience that these strategies really do work to support joy and love during any holiday. I wish you a nourishing holiday experience!

If you found the information in this article useful, I have created a free bonus for you: “Fulfilling Holidays Planning Sheets.” I designed them to help you implement what you just read in this article. Click on the button below for your free packet!



© 2008-2009 Integrity Revolution and Dr. David Gruder
You may reprint this article but only if you reprint it in its entirety, including listing Dr. David Gruder as the author and including in its entirety the "author box" in the next paragraph:

Want a free set of “Fulfilling Holidays Planning Sheets” to help you implement what you have read in this article? Go to www.TheNewIQ.com/holidays. Dr. David Gruder is a psychologist whom Radio & Television Interview Reports has hailed as “America’s Integrity Expert.” An award-winning health & wellness, self-help and social change author, he speaks, trains and consults worldwide. His latest 6-award-winning book, "The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships and Our World," and its companion, "The New IQ Integrity Makeover Workbook," are groundbreaking how-to manuals for creating personal happiness and business success without sacrificing personal integrity or social responsibility. For further information, visit www.TheNewIQ.com

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All content and products available through this website are offered solely for informational purposes. The sole purpose of this educational material is to share what Dr. Gruder has learned from his own personal experiences and from what the thousands of people he has served over the past three decades have taught him. Dr. Gruder encourages you to make your own decisions about your development, health care, and resource selections, based upon your own research as an informed consumer, and in partnership with a qualified helping professional whenever appropriate. Choosing to use this material means that you agree to be self-responsible with it: you alone are responsible for how you understand and utilize this material, and for the results you do or don’t get through utilizing it. This material is in no way intended as a substitute for appropriate professional assistance for physical, psychological, spiritual, relationship, career, leadership, or other challenges. Utilizing this material does not create a client-therapist relationship of any kind between you and David Gruder, PhD. Should you be utilizing helping professionals of any kind, you are strongly encouraged to seek their input about how to best customize this material to meet your unique individual circumstances and needs. Thank you for your integrity about this.

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