The holidays bring up a lot of emotions for people of all ages. As adults, it can feel like a lot for us to coordinate travel or host guests from out of town, take time off of work, and/or cook the holiday meal. As parents, we may be adjusting to having our kids at home for Thanksgiving week. Our kids may be experiencing stress of their own: a break from school activities may be welcome for some children, but for others, experiencing an interruption to their daily routine can be disorienting (which could manifest as headaches, stomachaches, or irritability).
For those of us that don’t have kids, our own childhood memories of the holidays may be, for better or worse, at the forefront of our minds. One study found that, for 49% of the adults surveyed, the happiest memory they could recall was a family vacation, and a quarter of those adults described those happy memories as ‘happiness anchors’, which they could return to during tougher times in their life.
Not all of us have happy memories from when we were kids. However, a principle of healing in adulthood is learning how to take care of your own inner child. You can make up for the shortcomings of your primary caretakers by treating yourself differently than they did – perhaps with more love, respect, and kindness. Therefore, you can still create new ‘happiness anchors’ whether you’re taking care of children or learning how to take care of yourself.
A good way to get started would be to visualize the Monday after Thanksgiving, and ask yourself – what would have made it the most enjoyable experience? Can you foresee anything that would derail you and your inner child from getting as much joy as possible out of the holiday? This might lead to some interesting insights, like what you feel obligated to say yes to, as opposed to what you actually enjoy about the holiday.
Kids just want to have fun, and your inner child probably does, too. Making your holiday more fun might look like simplifying your plans. Maybe you don’t want to cook and would enjoy the day more if the meal was store-bought. Maybe a new tradition – like a hike or a craft activity – would be something you would enjoy. Make it a point this year to honor what you would genuinely enjoy doing, instead of just responding to others out of a sense of duty and obligation.
And for those of us with children, don’t let creating a ‘happiness anchor’ be another source of stress. At the end of the day, the special memory won’t necessarily be what you did for your holiday; it will be the fact that you did it together.