Using Positive Psychology to Combat Holiday Stress

We deal with stress every day, but at the end of the year, we have the added stress from the holiday season. We can be busier, feel more lonely, and more financially strapped during what’s supposed to be a happy and joyful time. To say the end of the year is emotionally overwhelming can seem like an understatement.

If this sounds familiar, first of all, know that you’re not alone. A Healthline survey of 2,000 people found that 60% of people felt some stress during the holiday season. Secondly, know that stress management really does work and can lead to behavior changes, better coping skills, and a more positive outlook on life. One approach is to use positive psychology to recognize and celebrate the positive things in your life.

Positive Psychology: Thriving Instead of Just Surviving

Positive psychology focuses on what’s right with you – your strengths – rather than waiting for a diagnosis and trying to fix what’s “wrong” with you. There are little things you can on a daily basis to have an improved outlook, decreased stress levels, and increased subjective wellbeing (i.e., being content with yourself). Following are three ways to apply positive psychology to help with stress management.

The Free 3

If you engage in these three things on a daily basis, you will improve your spirits and decrease your stress level:

  1. Go outside: Get out in nature or take a walk around the building. Get outside for at least 15 minutes every day.
  2. Laughter: Watch funny videos, be around people who make you laugh, find a way to laugh every day.
  3. Listen to music: Listen to whatever music makes you happy!

3 Good Things

Every day at the same time of the day, sit down and write down three good things that happened to you that day. Commit to doing that for 30 days and commit to not repeating yourself.

You’ll find that in the first few days, you’ll be thankful for fairly common things (e.g., I’m grateful I have my health, a roof over my head, my family), but when you commit to not repeating yourself, you’ll have to start to search for those good things (e.g., I was running late for a meeting and I was stressed thinking I was going to hit traffic but for some reason I didn’t). When you search for things to be grateful for, you are challenging your brain and rewiring it to a positive orientation. If you practice this enough, you’ll notice more positive things in your life.

PERMA

The PERMA approach is associated with higher levels of satisfaction, higher levels of subjective wellbeing, and lower levels of stress.

  • Pleasure: Have some fun!
  • Engagement: Access certain types of activities where you are completely immersed, where time flies by and you don’t know it until you look at the clock (e.g., a hobby or a project at work)
  • Relationships: Your focus should be on quality, not quantity. Who do you need to spend more time with? Who lifts you up? There are two types of people in the world: Those who walk into a room and people are happy, and those who walk out of a room and people are happy. Spend more time with the first group.
  • Meaning: How do you make meaning out of bad times? How do you make meaning out of the fact that bad things happen to good people? If this is something you struggle with Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, may be an impactful read.
  • Achievement: Be around people who pump you up and pat you on the back.

Remember that positive psychology is a practice and not a magic pill. It requires dedication and work, but the payoff is less stress and a more positive outlook on life.

For more on stress management check out our Stress Management and Burnout resource page.