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How to stay positive when the holidays are hard

As much as I love the holidays and get a certain burst of glee shooting through me whenever I hear the word "Christmas" (or "holiday," for that matter!), I know that's not the case for everyone. For some people, the holidays are the worst time of year. For some, December is the month they dread most. I recently received a comment from a reader, asking how she could stay in the moment when she was unhappy with where she was. I noted my response to her that it's really hard to stay in the moment when the moments are tough, but to stay positive. And then I got to thinking: how does one stay positive during the holiday season when things are hard?

5 Ways to Stay Positive During the Holidays
  1. Focus on what's going right. No matter how tough things are for you, there is at least one thing that's going right. It might be a small thing -- like your ability to still get out of bed in the morning -- but size doesn't matter. Instead of focusing on the hardest things, the things that are bringing you down, choose to focus on the things, however small, that are going right for you right now. There are good things happening around you, but it's up to you to open your eyes and look for them. You will see what you're looking for.
  2. Realize you're not alone. As much as you might feel like you're only one suffering during the holidays, you are not alone. Sadly, there are many who are having a hard time this holiday season. Just remembering that you are not alone in dealing with the difficult holiday season will help you to feel more positive. Also, keep in mind that there are others who are in much, much worse situations than you are and, as bad as things are now, they could probably be worse. I know that doesn't sound very positive, but it's always good to put things in perspective. Doing so really will help you be more positive.
  3. Make an effort to interact. When you're unhappy it can be so tempting to stay inside, tucked away from others, but that's one of the worst things you can do for yourself -- especially during the holidays. You might not feel like interacting with others at all, but if you motivate yourself to get up, get out, and interact, you'll certainly improve your mood. Don't let your unhappiness hold you back. Get out there and give others a chance to cheer you. You definitely won't feel better if you stay alone all of the time, but you might just get a mood boost if you venture out and give others a chance.
  4. Spend time with those less fortunate. A great way to lift your spirits is to realize how lucky you are. One of the quickest ways to put your life in perspective is to spend time with others less fortunate than you. Around the holidays there are often great volunteer opportunities. Check your community's website or contact an organization you'd like to help out. When you find an opportunity to help others, take it. It will brighten your mood to spend time with others, especially those who are also struggling during the season.
  5. Look at the big picture. Right now you might be feeling down. Everyone else's cheerful moods might be driving you crazy. But take a step back and try to see the big picture. This year might be tough. Next year might be hard too. But you know what? There will be a holiday season when you will be one of those laughing and smiling and spreading holiday cheer. Stay positive and focus on the good things in your life and you will once again be lifted up by the spirit of the holidays.
All around us, holiday songs are being sung and we're forced to see the happy people filled with holiday cheer. If you're not in that mindset and you're struggling to stay positive, this is probably a really big pain in the ass. Having to encounter someone like me -- someone brimming with excitement for the upcoming holiday -- when you're in pain and unhappy is probably the most annoying thing in the world. However, if you do what you can to stay positive and focus on the tips I've provided above, it's possible to make it through this difficult time of year and grow even stronger from the experience. 

How do you stay positive when you're struggling through a tough time? 
What advice would you offer to someone having a hard time this holiday season?
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