The holidays can be a difficult time of year for many. If you’re single and long to be dating or want a relationship to improve, ruminating on those things is easy. I've discovered I need to be diligent and protect my heart. Below are some of the ways I’ve learned to do so.
Healthy Things that Lift Our Hearts
Get outside – sunshine is a natural mood booster. Go on a walk, hike, or just sit on a bench and soak in the sun (not too long without sunscreen).
Get a job (or second job) – the holidays are a great time to get a temporary job. Maybe there’s something you’ve wanted to save for or debt to pay off. Many retailers and restaurants seek short-term workers during the holiday season. Neighbors may be traveling and need someone to pet sit.
Do something for someone else - run an errand, babysit for a neighbor, rake leaves or shovel snow, or spend time talking with a neighbor, co-worker, or person from church who lives alone. If you look around, you’re bound to notice someone who needs help.
Exercise – Movement makes us feel good and can increase self-esteem. Don’t set lofty goals; just exercise. You can exercise at home, the gym, play a sport you enjoy, or do something recreational like frisbee golf. There are so many options for being active!
Write a letter – spread holiday cheer by writing a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life and telling them about it.
Volunteer – Food banks, shelters, and other non-profits need help during the holidays, such as serving meals, decorating, playing games with kids, wrapping, or helping distribute gifts.
Create a song list – After I realized the romantic Christmas songs made me long for a relationship, I created a playlist of all my favorite (non-romantic) Christmas songs and hymns so I could enjoy songs about the season without feeling the pull of longing.
Tackle a project – Even something as simple as cleaning your room or house. Or maybe there’s something you’ve needed to get done but have put off or never seem to have the time – make the time now and get it done. Doing so gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Learn something new – I moved into a condo that needed updates, including changing the light switches from almond to white. I was nervous doing so, but after watching a few YouTube videos, I gave it a try. Discovering I could do something that felt challenging boosted my self-confidence.
Be content – It’s easy to look at what we don’t have or feel is missing in our life – and we all have something. Take time to recognize what you do have and are grateful for. Once we switch our thoughts from what we don’t have to the good things and people in our lives, we can find contentment, and contentment brings peace.
Things that can Hurt our Heart
Social Media – scrolling through other people’s highlight reels can lower our mood. Instead, read a book, find a positive podcast, make a photo file of positive quotes, or try the above-mentioned things.
Rom-Com - At Christmas, there seems to be a plethora of romantic holiday movies. If I watch one, I may get a warm fuzzy feeling at the time, but soon, my heart turns to longing. I wonder why I haven’t found a man like the fictional one in the movie. Movies and TV shows can give us a dopamine boost, the hormone that makes us feel good. But shortly after the show ends, the dopamine begins to decline, and our body wants more – creating a longing for something we don’t have but feel temporarily while watching a fictional relationship grow.
Romantic Songs - As with TV and movies, there are many songs about romance, including Christmas songs. As a teen, I longed for the magical night with a loved one the singer tells us about in the song Winter Wonderland or the happy times together in Sleigh Ride. As I got older, out of habit, I gravitated towards these songs but found they were hurting my heart rather than helping me focus on the real reason for the season – Christ’s birth.
Protecting our Emotional Heart Protects Our Spiritual Heart
Wanting or wishing for something we don’t have fosters discontentment and can pull us away from God. Being mindful of how I feel throughout the day and recognizing what activities boost or lower my emotions reminds me of this Bible verse: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23 NIV) It’s so true! A heart that is content is at peace, and life feels good.
Wishing you much joy and peace this holiday season!