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6 Tips for being happy when you just want to disappear until January

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published author whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Real Simple, Women’s Health, Redbook, and frequently online. She is also the co-author of two books: The Real R...

That cheery feeling we're supposed to have during the holidays isn't as simple as flipping a switch

Has your ‘tis-the-season spirit taken a sabbatical? It’s not uncommon for moodiness to hit during the merry madness (with all the overeating, overspending and over-socializing).

“Many people cling to the memories of the holidays being all holly jolly, but adult realities end up creeping in with a lot of stress and threaten to ruin the whole season,” says Dr. Jamie Turndorf, author of Kiss your Fights Goodbye. “However, with a few mindful tricks and seasonal stress busters, you can keep yourself in a happier space all the way until the new year.”

More: 5 Energy-healing exercises that cure stress almost immediately

With that in mind, these expert tips will help you banish your inner Grinch, so you can start 2016 unscathed from temporary seasonal insanity.

1. To cure a bad holiday attitude, cultivate gratitude

Even when you’re exhausted, overwhelmed and dealing with family drama, you probably have a whole heck of a lot to be grateful for right? Time to stay present and take note of that! “Write down all the people, experiences and things you’re grateful for, and make it a point to tell each person on your list what you wrote about them and what they mean to you,” says Dana B. Myers, founder of The Booty Parlor. This will fire up your holiday spirit and reduce your stress faster than a cup of eggnog.” 

2. Do more bonding rather than buying

You've probably heard the saying "money doesn't buy love," but it actually rings even truer around the holidays when sharing time with friends and family should be the greatest gift. “When you're lying on your deathbed, you are not going to be thinking about who you forgot to buy what… all you remember, and all you will be remembered for, is how well you loved,” says Dr. Turndorf. “So, this holiday make it a point to sit with another person, look into his/her eyes, and truly listen to that person. Listen with the ears of your heart. Listening is love in action.” In other words, put away your credit card and pull up a chair next to someone you care about — the return on investment will invariably be higher.

More: 8 Surprising foods that help you stress less

3. Remember it's deck the halls, not your relatives

When the weather outside is cold and you’re all trapped inside together, it’s quite easy for things to get, ahem… heated. However, this is not the time to air grievances. “Mind your mouth and don't let your holidays become hollerdays!” says Dr. Turndorf. “Remember, your words and actions are fully under your control! You'd never whip out a forked tongue at a cop, right?” With that in mind, Dr. Turndorf suggests the following tricks. When you feel like blowing a gasket, get up, walk to the bathroom and splash water on your face. The cold water is a wake up call to chill out. Or, when you start losing your temper: stop, take three deep breaths and ask yourself, "Will I even remember this moment five years from now?" If your answer is no, then let it go.

“No matter how short you think your fuse, I promise you, you can walk the other way and do these techniques,” says Dr. Turndorf. “You can choose to only say and do what you know is loving and supportive."

4. Take a hot cocoa time-out; it's scientifically proven to change your mood

Scientists say grabbing a cup of hot cocoa when your demeanor is nosediving can help put you back on the happy track. According to Dr. Alan Hirsch — neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago — both the aroma and the chemicals in chocolate have mood-altering qualities. “Chocolate raises mood-boosting serotonin levels in the brain, so chemically it has a tendency to put people in a positive mood,” says Dr. Hirsch.

5. Fill your friend’s mailboxes, not their email inboxes

Time to get out your pen and buy a real box of holiday stationary. A Penn State study has shown that receiving Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's cards really does make people happy. Researchers found that on average the respondents in the study reported receiving 5-10 cards from close friends or relatives. The rest of the cards were from more distant contacts whom the recipients hadn't seen for a year or more. The nature of the relationship between the sender and receiver, however, did not matter. Recipients still felt pleasure from the cards. In fact, the higher the number of cards received, the greater the enhanced feelings of well-being. So, keep the tradition alive and actually post some greetings this year — and hopefully your mailbox will overflow with happiness in return.

More: 5 Important ways to protect yourself from stress

6. Stop taking selfies and do something selfless

Studies show that volunteering for those less fortunate can decrease depression and anxiety, reduce stress and increase a person’s feelings of joy almost more than those to whom the time/energy was given. What’s more, it can help you live longer.

Not sure where to start? Trying matching your volunteering efforts to your personality. For example, if you love kids, hunt for some toy bargains for toy drives. If you are a foodie, canvas your friends for holiday food donations for your local food pantry or serve some time at a food kitchen (i.e., it’s tough to feel sorry for yourself over relatively minor crises when you meet people who don't know where their next meal is coming from).

Not only does it feel good to give back, it will remind you of the spirit of the season and isn't that what it should truly be about?

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