Living with Vitality: Eight keys to holiday happiness |

Living with Vitality: Eight keys to holiday happiness

Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily |

We hear “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” over and over on the speakers in the store. The commercials on TV show everyone having a great time and getting their new dream car in the driveway, complete with a big red bow. But for most of us, the holidays aren’t “the most wonderful time of the year.” And you know what? That’s OK.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are eight things that are key to a holiday that will make you happy.

1. Dig deep with gratitude — It’s easy to say that you feel grateful for a home, car, family and friends. However, it can be a challenge to practice feeling deep gratitude for those things. Rather than just saying “I’m thankful for” and filling in the blank, say what you’re thankful for and why. Add details and get personal. What do those things mean to you? What do they do that make you grateful for them?

2. Set your intention — An intention is defined as “an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions.” You can set your intention for each day before you get out of bed, for your workout, your shopping trip to the grocery store and even for the next family gathering. The funny thing about consciously setting an intention is that usually your experience matches the intention that you set. That means, of course, that you are setting realistic intentions. If Uncle Marty always shows up and has had a bit too much to drink and starts spouting off political views opposite yours, that can be hard to deal with. If you set the intention to be able to deal with Uncle Marty, separate yourself from him and not let him ruin the day, then you can likely find ways to make that happen.

3. Plan wisely — Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Taking time to plan helps you know what you need to do and when. I like to start by putting all of the non-work things on my calendar, such as sleeping, eating, getting ready, working out, etc. Then, I know how much time I have left for everything else.

Taking time to plan your meals even one or a few days at a time means you don’t have to spend energy figuring out what you’re going to eat when you are hungry. Plan your holiday season, including what you have coming up, when and what you want the experience to be like.

4. “Just do it!” — The Nike slogan prevails. Once you have your plan, then you have to “just do it!” If you don’t follow your plan, then what was the point in putting it together in the first place? Sticking to your plan helps keep you on track and helps deliver the end result you want — be it a meal on the table or the holiday experience you wanted.

5. Prioritize presence over presents. How much time, energy and stress do you spend shopping for the perfect gift? What about giving experiences rather than gifts? In lieu of traditional gifts, a friend and I give each other the gift of our time. We meet for dinner once a month (and split the bill). This allows us to schedule time to spend together and not have the stress of shopping. You can also give gifts that help others. You can give a Kiva gift card, which allows the cardholder to give a microloan to one or more people around the world. And Kiva gift cards keep on giving because they get to give microloans again and again as each is repaid.

There are also ’Tis Best cards that let you give a gift card for an amount and the recipient gets to then use that to make a donation to the charity of his or her choice.

6. Savor the flavors — When you’re eating, be sure to stop and focus on the food you’re eating. What does it really taste like? What flavors are you picking up? What’s the texture — soft, crunchy, hard, chewy, dry? How do the flavors and textures change as you chew each bite? Give food the spotlight it deserves by really enjoying it.

7. Take mental snapshots — What do you remember from last year’s holidays? What do you want to remember from this year’s holidays? One way you can make sure you remember is to stop and take a mental snapshot of everything around you. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Who is there with you? What are you doing? What are they doing? Make your mental snapshot as vivid as you can. Stop at least three times through the day and take a mental snapshot. When you go back to you memories of this day, those are the things you’ll remember most vividly.

Be perfectly imperfect — The only perfect celebration is on T.V. or in the movies, and those aren’t reality. Comparing yourself (and others) to fantasies only sets you (and them) up for failure. Rather than trying to make everything perfect and be perfect, why not open up yourself and others for imperfection? This allows you to relax and enjoy what comes. Go ahead, allow room for imperfection this year and see if you enjoy the holidays more.

Penny Wilson is a certified dietitian and nutritionist based at the Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. Wilson specializes in integrative and functional nutrition, allowing her to take a holistic approach to nutritional wellness and overall health. For more information about the Vail Vitality Center, visit

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