How to make these the "best of times"

Are your holidays typically served with a side order of stress and indigestion? This year, try these tips for getting through the next few weeks with your sanity, wallet and waistline intact:

1. Start with gratitude. Giving thanks for what you have isn’t just a nice, socially acceptable thing to do. It’s good for your health. Like any mindfulness or meditation practice, it can lower your blood pressure, keep the inflammatory response to stress in check, increase feelings of connection, enhance positive emotions like joy, optimism and good will towards men (and women). Rather than bitterly survey what you don’t have or didn’t achieve, take stock of the little (or big) things that have contributed to your well-being in the past twelve months. Even disappointments can open your mind to new possibilities for the future. (And set the stage for next year’s gratitude exercise.)

2. Share the joys (and burdens) of the season. Don’t be a martyr to the “shoulds” of celebration. Engage others in cooking, holiday card and thank you note-writing, gift-shopping and cleaning up. It will minimize resentment and create a better bonding experience by involving family and friends.

3. Find humor. When the dog pees, when the cats break a bauble, when you’re feeling sad, remember it’s just a day. Don’t make it more than it is. Plus, as Nora Ephron used to say, life is material and whatever goes wrong can be re-purposed later into a great story to tell.

4. Try compassion. For yourself and for others.  Get over the idea of the perfect meal, gift or event. Start a new tradition of love, forgiveness and empathy. That's a gift that keeps on giving.

5. Boost your endorphins. Resist the stress of Black Friday’s impulse spending (and long-term debt) with some exercise, a movie or museum visit or a day of service. Caring for yourself or others can go a long way in re-framing our holiday experience and making it a more emotionally rewarding time of year.

Happy holidays!