Keeping depression at bay: Embracing new purpose during the holiday
As I sit here listening to Pandora’s array of beautiful holiday music, I find myself reflecting on things that have occurred over the months leading up to Christmas and New Year’s day in both my personal life and in the lives of others around the world. We have experienced so many things this year:
- The recent December 11, 2012 mall shooting in Clackamas, Oregon
- Natural disasters (the biggest being Hurricane Sandy)
- Shocking deaths (Trayvon Martin)
- Unbelievable court rulings (Casey Anthony case)
- A multiplicity of political caricatures and emotionally draining campaigns (Mitt Romney and President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan)
- Terrible attacks in Benghazi Libya that killed four Americans in September of 2012
- The summer Olympics that showcased a wide array of cultural talent
- The devastating attack on the Sikh community in August 2012
- The heartbreaking shootings in Aurora Colorado in July of 2012 perpetrated by James Holmes
- Changes in healthcare law and reform
- Turmoil during Egypt’s journey toward democracy in June of 2012 when Islamist Mohammad Morsi was elected president
- Changes in our social media (Facebook going public in May of 2012),
- The controversial immigration laws and Supreme Court battles in Arizona allowing police to check citizenship during traffic stops
- The Pennsylvania and other state law ID requirements for voting
- The major crisis in Syria regarding the Bashar-al-Assad crackdown on “rebels” and protestors
- The economic crisis involving employment and downsizing for many families
- Tensions between the U.S. and Iran over nuclear weapons
Couple these events with your own personal struggles, disappointments, and changes and you might just feel extremely hopeless, overwhelmed, or depressed. Many of these events can have a negative effect on the way you perceive the holiday season. For example, thinking of the lives that have been broken following Hurricane Sandy is difficult. It is hard to imagine waking up on Christmas morning to gifts, family, and holiday music while so many have nothing. It is too much for the human psyche to grasp. If you are like me, you usually feel the effects of the year’s events during the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve). While there is sadness about the events, there is also a beauty because these events showcase the depth of who we are as humans and how we need each other to progress in the world.
We all learn to find ways to get through the holiday season. For me, it is God and reflecting on blessings. For others, it may be family and friends. Here are four things you might find useful during this time:
- Reflect: Take some time to slow your life down and reflect on personal growth, where you hope to be the next year, and what has changed in your life. For me, the holiday season is not so much about food and gifts, but love, family, gratitude, graciousness, giving, and most importantly reflection. The above events of 2012 have changed the rules by which I hope to experience life in 2013.
- Find ways to give: It’s unfortunate that many people consider the gift of love, care, and affection to be an expression of the holiday season. There are so many people who could use love every single day of their lives. Find ways to give love, opportunity, compassion, and care in the new year! Giving to others has a strange way of positively affecting your mood.
- Make a list: Take this time to create a list of things that gave you joy during 2012 and things you found saddening. Now, make another list. This list will include the things you hope to experience in 2013. One section will include material things (education, better job, etc.), while the other section will include nonmaterial things (self-awareness, giving your time, etc.). These lists should be kept somewhere private to reflect on throughout the coming year. It’s a way to monitor growth over time.
- Embrace a “higher” experience: As a child, I remember my mom speaking to my siblings and me about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We sat in front of our beautiful Christmas tree and talked about the life altering experiences of the year (a new addition to the family, a relationship, a spiritual experience, a new job, a new found confidence, etc.). I realized just how “spiritual” the holiday season is and I’ve made it a goal of mine each season to reflect on what truly matters. Material gain only lasts until your very last breath on earth.
Reflection is a psychological experience, a place where hope and insight can be fostered. The mundane chaos of everyday life removes us from experiencing this part of life.
I encourage you to take time to reflect. You will experience a variety of emotions and may become sad. But that is okay because all of these reactions are a part of you; a part of what makes you human. Life is an experience. You cannot fully experience life unless you provide the opportunity to stop and reflect.
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