Happiness Hangover

Christmas and New Year are the biggest holidays of the year so, when they are over, some of us breathe a deep sigh of relief, while others feel a disappointing let-down. In her book “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness,” Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., calls this feeling of post-holiday blues “happiness hangover.”

It can happen at the end of any positive event that involves planning and stimulates excitement, so Christmas and New Year are only two possibilities. It can happen after a big wedding, a long-anticipated vacation, a carefully planned family reunion, a graduation, completing a major project, or reaching a health treatment goal. Dr. Lombardo suggests that this can occur any time we focus our energy (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) in planning the details and doing the work involved in creating a significant event.

We thrive on working towards a goal at home, at work, with friends, or with health professionals. We love to share fun and meaningful activities because it’s satisfying and rewarding. But, after all that organizing and anticipation, when it’s over we can feel let down.

How do we know we have a happiness hangover? We’re exhausted so energy is low, we feel down in the dumps, we feel a loss of purpose and wonder, “What do I do now?” If we find ourselves with these symptoms, Dr. Lombardo has some easy recommendations. First she suggests gratitude because it shifts our energy from focusing on what is missing to appreciation of the people and events we have just experienced. Let’s remind ourselves of times in the past when we lost something before we fully knew its value. And let’s also remember not to let big events overshadow all the little daily pleasures there are to enjoy.

Her second suggestion is to relive the event through treasured memories. Remember the spontaneous hug from a child, or the laughter during a holiday meal. In our minds we can relive our vacation by recalling the beach sunrise and again feel the warm sand on our bare feet. Going through a picture album, slowly savoring every page is delightful, as is watching a video of an event. Put on the t-shirt and listen to the music of that concert you waited so long to attend. Bring to mind the satisfying feeling of completing that long cancer treatment plan and the celebration that it deserved.

Her third suggestion is to create a new focus. This does not mean we need to immediately jump into another major project – what we need is some recovery time. And in our recovery time we can create something to look forward to while we nourish ourselves. Nature is nourishing, so visiting a botanical garden, walking the beach, and sitting in the shade of a tree listening to the wildlife all around us is refreshing. If we can’t be outside we can still enjoy nature through the window by watching cloud patterns or the wind playing with the trees while we mentally relive our favorite place to walk. Scheduling a spa day or a massage renews energy, as does quiet reading time in a favorite chair, listening to music, or taking an afternoon nap. As we take care of ourselves and create a new focus, our energies return.

Happiness hangover disappears quickly when we intentionally choose what brings us pleasure and treat ourselves with kindness. As we begin a new year, let’s give ourselves a large dose of TLC along with gratitude for this past holiday season, this day, this moment. There is so much to enjoy and look forward to!

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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