Sparkly new engagement rings, exotic vacations, besties clad in ugly sweaters—once you start seeing these things on your Instagram feed in high quantities, you know it’s really the holiday season.
And while such year-end landmarks are totally worth a share, being bombarded with them can make you feel less-than-jolly if they’re things you want in your life…but don’t have.
According to Christine Hassler, life coach and author of Expectation Hangover, there’s a reason why the holidays are a time when lots of envy and comparison tend to creep in. “This season comes with a lot of pressure—there’s an expectation to be surrounded by people and to be in love,” she says. “It’s also a time where the focus is on stuff—like presents and parties—and we lose sight of the simple things that make our lives so amazing. This prevents us from feeling the gratitude for what we have.”
She adds that festive FOMO isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s become even more pronounced in the age of social media. “The problem is we’ve become voyeurs to everyone’s life, and whenever you compare yourself to hundreds of other people, it’s really hard not to go into lack,” Hassler says.
Fortunately, it’s possible to snap out of this kind of thinking and bring yourself back into a positive place. Just follow these suggestions from Hassler, and soon you’ll be throwing around “#blessed” like it’s tinsel.
Keep reading for five ways to let go of envy this holiday season.
1. Make gratitude a daily practice
“Gratitude has to be a muscle,” proclaims Hassler. But unlike working your quads, she adds, there should be no rest days when it comes to giving thanks. “Unless it’s something we practice every day, it’s easy to slip out of gratitude and get into ‘more, better, different’ thinking.”
The simplest way to get started? Create a gratitude journal, in which you write down all the things you’re thankful for each day. And don’t just make it about the big, awesome happenings. “Focus on simple things—like an amazing parking spot or a cute dog you saw—and also give some gratitude to the not-so-great things, because there’s learning in them,” says Hassler.
So if you didn’t get invited to that blowout holiday party, find the silver lining and put it on paper. (Like, maybe you were able to finish your holiday shopping instead.) You’re guaranteed to feel better once you reframe the situation.
2. See yourself in others
Hassler has an unusual take on jealousy: She sees it as an opportunity. “When you’re comparing or jealous, you’re seeing something in someone else that you’re not seeing in yourself,” she explains. “If you really use the comparison and say, ‘How do I leverage this?’ you can use it to develop your own personal qualities.”
For example, let’s say that you’ve been social-stalking a college friend who has an awesome partner, a great apartment, and a cool job. “Ask yourself, what qualities am I seeing in them that I need to own in myself?” says Hassler. “Are they confident? Are they courageous? Are they a risk-taker? What got them to where they are, and how can you own that in yourself?” Once you’re aware, you can work on cultivating those aspects of your own personality.
3. Connect with people on the reg—and not from behind a screen
“The biggest reason people get out of gratitude and feel sad and separate is we don’t feel like we’re connected with anybody,” says Hassler. Her advice? Make sure that you’re having meaningful conversations as often as possible, whether it’s with your checker at Whole Foods or a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
And no, WhatsApp chats don’t count. “Especially in this time when we’re so polarized, we need people—and it can’t just be through our devices,” Hassler stresses. “Beyond just your immediate circle, how can you reach out and experience that sense of belonging? The more connected you feel, the more gratitude you will feel.” (One great idea: Start a women’s circle.)
4. Be of service
The best way to appreciate all that you have is, without a doubt, by serving someone who has less. “You don’t have to go drill a well in Africa, but you can volunteer or help a friend who’s having a rough time,” Hassler says.
She refers to acts of service as “perspective checks,” which bring the awesome aspects of your life into focus and help amp up the gratitude. If you need somewhere to start, look for an organization in your area doing good work (like this nonprofit that delivers healthy meals to those who are sick).
5. Do something creative
According to Hassler, there’s nothing that’ll get you into a high-vibe state faster than flexing your right brain. (And don’t use the excuse that you’re not creative—she insists everyone is, if we give ourselves the chance.)
“Too many of us spend all of our time working and socializing,” she says. “There’s not enough playing, creativity, or pleasure that doesn’t come from eating and drinking.” So next time you’re feeling down, whip up a flower arrangement, paint your own nail art, or dye a tablecloth using your farmers’ market haul. Even if your creation isn’t exactly Pinterest-worthy, one thing’s for sure: It’ll be way more gratifying than hitting “refresh” on your social feed for the zillionth time.
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