Thomas D. Yarnell, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Life Coach
Feeling down in the dumps and having the blues is not reserved just for big holidays like Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July. There are many anniversary dates that remind us of something or sometime in our life that made us feel depressed. The death of someone close to us, our divorce date, our marriage date, a birthday, etc. We may not be able to wipe out the memory of these events but we can take charge of how we feel about them. We can reduce or even eliminate the depression associated with just about any situation. There is no magic here, just some good psychology. Yes, you will have to participate in order to make it happen. I'll tell you what to do but you will have to be the one to do it in order for it to become real.

There are two techniques I'll teach you here. The first involves some thinking and planning on your part. It involves the Law of Substitution, which teaches us that if we pair a strong positive feeling with a weaker negative feeling, the situation will start to become more positive.

First, write down the next holiday or anniversary date you think you will have trouble dealing with. Now, make a list of everything you can do that you know is fun as well as those activities you would like to try. Think, what happy, comforting, uplifting and nurturing activities can you do on that date. Plan to fill that day with as many fun activities as you can. As the date gets closer, you will start to doubt yourself. You might even think this plan is stupid. This is just your negative self trying to take over because it recognizes that the plan will work. It will not only help you overcome the blues on that day but it also reduces the negative effect of that day for next year. Each time you use this association technique it will help now as well as start changing the emotional charge of the event for the future. Each and every success you have will make the next time even easier.

The number one factor that will produce success is that you must take action. You cannot sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Take action and take charge of your life and you will make it happier, more joyful and more satisfying.

The second technique is a visualization that I learned many years ago and have successfully used with myself and with many other people. It's called the "Ideal Day Visualization". It should be done as soon as you can after waking up and any other time during the day when you are starting to feel bad. It only takes 5 to 10 minutes but it can make a significant impact on your emotional state. Do it every day and you will find that your life is becoming calmer and more positive.

Step 1. Ask yourself how you would like to feel every day. Once you know what you want to feel, think back into your past and find one time you did feel that way. If you are in a state of crisis right now, you may not be able to remember a time you did feel good. The truth is that every human being has, at some time, had a good, positive feeling. Find yours. It doesn't have to have lasted a long time, it just has to have existed.

Step 2. When you wake up in the morning, clear your head and relax your body by taking some deep breaths and let go as you exhale. Let your body get limp - like a cooked piece of spaghetti. Once relaxed, visualize and bring back the memory of that time you felt happy, strong, confident or whatever set of positive feelings you are working with.Visualize or remember it as clearly as you can and as you do, let the feelings come back with the memory. Don't try to make anything happen. Just relax, think of and visualize the situation and allow the feelings to come back and fill your mind and body. Some people will need to practice more than others to make it happen. Some people do the exercise 3 or 4 times during the day and report that it helps keep them positive and feeling good all day long. If you do this exercise on a regular basis, the positive feelings will last longer and longer after you stop the visualization. You only need to do it for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Once you have the positive feeling, enjoy it for a minute or two then return to your regular activities.

Both activities are fairly easy and may seem too simple to be effective. The truth is they are very effective because they are simple, short and easy to do. The key is "action" by you. Take it and these two exercises will help you overcome holiday stress.

Copyright  2004 - 2008 Thomas D. Yarnell, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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