Remember the joy we felt as kids, running around the Christmas tree or lighting a hanukkiah? As adults, the easy joy of the holidays can become tainted by stress in all its forms. Positive psychologist and author of 21 Days to Resilience, Dr. Zelana Montminy, wants to help us navigate the holidays in a healthier way — by making time to play.
Just ahead you’ll find a few simple yet meaningful tips to keep in mind as we dive into the depths of the season. Play might sound like a frivolous thing, but it’s an essential piece to true resilience and joy. This January, Dr. Zelena is hosting a 3-day Mental Fitness Bootcamp rooted in the concept. “It’s a completely unique, holistic program I’ve designed including flow yoga, ocean view mantra hikes, organic seasonal food, candlelight meditation and more. You will leave transformed and empowered with actionable skills that breed resilience, authenticity and lasting joy.”
Playfulness Makes Us Resilient. How The Holidays Can Help…
We’ve all felt it, that child-like joy when we are playful and having fun. Humor and play is innate — babies laugh from four months old and all children use humor and play to entertain themselves and learn. But where does that raw sense of humor and playfulness go as we get older? Life gets to us. We start to censor ourselves. We care too much about how people perceive us. And our to-do lists and responsibilities take the place of play.
It’s unfortunate because play is highly therapeutic — it actually makes us happier and healthier. It reduces stress hormones and allows us to release stored-up negative emotions. It strengthens our immune system and allows more time for our cells to fight disease since they’re not focused on processing stress in our body. There’s a myriad of benefits, but less known is that laughter and playfulness is also a useful tool to weather the daily grind.
Research has showed a connection between those who have humor and play in their lives have more positive thoughts and better problem-solving skills. And I’m not referring to the type of humor or playfulness that denies the reality of a crisis or pain — this can be used to overshadow the feelings or seriousness of situations. But if used in the right way, play can ground us with a shifted perspective and help us pull through the darkness. Resilient people are able to be playful and apply humor in appropriate circumstances.
How To Be More Playful During The Holiday SeasonThe holidays are a perfect time to insert more joy and play into our lives! Here are a few tips for how:
Make your laughter heard. Science has found laughter to be contagious both visually and audibly. What a great way to give to others, the gift of laughter.
Use the wintery outdoors as your playground. If snow is not in your backyard, make a trip of it. It’s an easy way to get the benefits of fresh air and build a snowman while you’re at it.
The holiday season is all about magic, whether you believe in Santa, Mensch on a Bench, you name it. And the magic isn’t just for kids — it’s also for the kid still in all of us. Tap into that wonder and see your joy blossom.
Elevate your holiday get together to be about more than just cocktails and cookies. While that’s important, too (don’t get me wrong!), add a playful element such as a White Elephant gift exchange, Family Feud or Christmas Charades!
The holiday season isn’t sweet for everyone. This time of year can bring back a lot of painful memories or make you feel quite lonely. It’s easy to hide from it all. With challenge comes growth, so if this time of year is particularly difficult, I encourage you to lean into those tough, real feelings you’re experiencing. Carve out time for a walk with a friend, say yes to a holiday gathering even if your gut reaction is no, or plan a playful gift exchange with colleagues. As hard as the holidays can be, forcing yourself to confront those feelings is the first step to them having less power over you.
What are your favorite ways to play? Share below!