Handling holiday unhappiness

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Sometimes I think that all December calendars should come with a label that reads:

Caution! The Holidays May Be Hazardous To Your Mental Health

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Wait though – this is the most wonderful time of the holly jolly happy time of year, right? If so, then why is it that so many people fight depression during this season?

Lots of theories have been put forth- let me just list a few:

– Less sunlight and cold weather tend to bum people out

– Excessive sugar and/or alcohol intake blows our emotional circuits

– Family/schedule/gift buying pressure wreak havoc on one’s sense of well being

And the theories go on and on. If you are one of those Bah Humbug folks that gets a dose of the December doldrums- perhaps this story will help.

In the Old Testament, there was a great prophet named Elijah who performed incredible miracles through God’s power. One day, after a particularly amazing victory over some very evil people, Elijah fell into a very depressed state. He was so disheartened that he asked God to take his life. Yet instead, God sent an angel to minister to him. The interesting thing is that angel did not give Elijah a miraculous vision, explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything extraordinary. In fact, he simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing: get up and eat. God knew that Elijah didn’t need some astonishing revelation and sign- he just needed a Big Mac with some fries. By doing that, the angel helped him get his focus off himself and back on doing the everyday, ordinary things that we are called to do.

Could it be that the holidays completely take our focus off of the everyday, commonplace things that are crucial in maintaining a state of contentment? Absolutely.

I once heard an analogy of happiness being like the tail of a cat. As long as the cat is focused on pursuing and catching his tail, he will never achieve what he seeks. Yet if the cat simply goes about his business, the tail will naturally follow. At Christmas, we are so focused on wanting to experience that ‘holiday cheer’ that we all start chasing our tails around.
Here are a few suggestions if you are singing the holiday blues:

– Stop focusing on the depression and ask God for opportunities to serve others

– Take a look at your schedule and try to say ‘no’ to as much busyness as possible

– Pull out your thankfulness list from turkey day, and remind yourself of your blessings

– Read through one of the gospels during the month of December

– Finally, don’t expect to feel happy, grateful and joyful throughout the holidays. That’s not natural.

Oh yeah, and it never hurts to stay away from the bonbons and booze!