By Lena Schmidt

For some this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others it’s, well, not. Whether you experience a few days of stress or a bout of wintertime blues or are slogging through a season of S.A.D.ness, here are some tried, tested, and true tips for being and staying happy for the holidays!

Healthy eating = happy eating. I know, I know. The ONE thing you were looking forward to was gorging on mom’s holiday cookies. You can, of course. But it won’t make you happy. Studies show that choosing to eat nourishing, filling, fresh, in-season food helps diminish depression. This means, in the name of lasting happiness, say no to tons of treats. Yes, you’ll probably have to deal with curious comments from co-workers and family members. Yes, you’ll have to stand up for yourself and grow a thicker skin (this is beneficial for staying warm during the cold winter months anyways), but you’ll be glowing from the inside out and feeling full of energy, so never mind those judgmental folks (read: people jealous of your self-control and healthy choices). Abstain from sugar, alcohol (loaded with sugar and resentment), caffeine, and simple carbs (like cakes, cookies, and refined white bread) and instead choose proteins, complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, and oats), and fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Make the change fun by trying new recipes, turning it into a challenge for yourself (prize goes to the person who eats the most veggies at Uncle Joe’s potluck!), and sharing meals with positive people.

Get up with the sun. Vitamin D is a known mood booster! As best you can, wake up naturally with the first light of day. Get up and get going. Bonus: you’ll get more hours to be your awesome self!

Go lots of rest. Go to bed early. 5pm probably feels like midnight these days anyways. Due to higher levels of the sleep-controlling hormone melatonin present in the body in the winter you probably feel more sleepier than usual…so, give in. Take that nap. Get under the covers at 8pm. Your body and brain will thank you for it.

Create a routine/ritual. What makes you happy all year long? Do those things. A lot. Run. Watch movies. Cook up a storm. Pet your pup. And make a little routine to keep you grounded as the days turn cold and the stresses pile up. Wake up to a simple morning routine such as journaling, sipping tea, walking the dog, reading positive quotes, and stretching and breathing deeply. Create a mid-day break that includes self-care rituals such as exercising, phoning a good friend, writing a letter to a loved one, catching some sun rays outside, and taking 5-10 deep breaths. And finish your day strong with an evening ritual that includes listing what you’re grateful for, sitting or reclining for meditation, lighting candles, and turning off electronics an hour before bed.

Phone a friend. Remember that option from Who Want to be a Millionaire? Use it now. Put a few trusted friends on the favorites list in your phone. Write on a slip of paper 5 people whose opinion actually matters to you. Call in reinforcements at the first signs of sadness, panic, worry, or fear. You’re not in this alone.

Delete that app. Nix the social media. Enjoy a media free day once a month (or once a week!) Seeing images of shiny, happy people on Instagram or Facebook when you already feel down in the dumps can push you further into the depths of despair. Though there are certainly many benefits to staying connected online, whether you allow yourself to get sucked in or remember that it’s not real and it’s definitely not the whole story, so called “social” media can actually make you feel more isolated. And when you look up from your screen you may see a beautiful winter wonderland or your nephew’s first steps or let your brain unwind enough to finally write that brilliant song. For more ideas in the digital detox arena, check out the Note to Self podcast’s Bored and Brilliant Challenge.

Turn challenge into opportunity. In a bit of a tizzy because your friend cancelled lunch again or your sister can’t commit to a time for family dinner or it’s just all too overwhelming? Instead of curling up on the couch and wallowing (though that’s allowed too) use this time as an excuse to step away from it all. Get yourself to a yoga class, go for a walk in nature, go to the movies or enjoy a treatment from a gifted healer (massage, acupuncture, facial, pedicure). Or better yet, use your time out to serve others. Arrange to volunteer at the local animal shelter, soup kitchen, clothing donation service, or gift drive. And study up on your non-violence communication skills so that when you do step back in, you can keep the peace and maintain healthy relationships with those you love.

Set intention. Think about how you’d like to feel this holiday season. As the holidays approach, take a few moments to set some intentions. Why are you going? What’s the purpose for the getaway? As always, it’s a good idea to set intentions based on how you’d like to feel, rather than on what you hope to achieve (this is where intentions and goals differ). Do you hope to feel relaxed? Inspired? Adventurous? These driving desires will help you choose activities that will incite these feelings. Get more ideas about setting intentions from The Desire Map, a great book by Danielle LaPorte.

Lena is a California girl! She was born in Los Angeles, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and came to San Diego for her undergrad studies at UC San Diego, where she completed a BA in Ethnic Studies, and hasn’t left. After dancing a lot of modern and jazz dance in high school and college, Lena found the physicality of yoga to be a delightful and challenging way to move the body without competition. She continued in graduate school at San Diego State University, where she completed an MA in Women’s Studies, and began a teaching credential program. Lena spent a few years teaching dance to children and serving as a member of AmeriCorps, before deciding to deepen her yoga practice. She is now so grateful to teach Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, Prenatal, and Children’s Yoga all over San Diego and lead local and international yoga + adventure retreats.