HEAL This Holiday Season

positive thinkingFor many, thinking of the holiday season instantly brings up negative feelings. Some

may miss loved ones that have passed away. Others may have to come in contact

with relatives who can be controlling, insensitive or insulting. Food and treats are

everywhere making one who is coping with an eating disorder feel like they are in

a combat zone. But what if there was a way to neutralize those negative feelings?

Could there be a way to make the holidays joyous and self-compassionate rather

than insufferable and miserable?


Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist who describes our brains as hard-wired for

negativity. He believes the brain is constantly seeking safety, satisfaction and

connection. In its effort to keep us ideally content, the brain easily seeks out

negative experiences to point out danger in our physical safety, ability to approach

rewards and our relationships with others. These experiences stick to us like Velcro

while our positive experiences slip right off us. It is protective but can often get us

stuck in a reactive or red state where we are veering toward negativity away from

the very ideal state.


So what to do? The first step is to get exercise. Exercise helps grow the parts of the

brain that will allow for learning and change. In addition, Hanson has a four-step

process to get our brains back into our responsive or green state starting having a

positive or good experience. During the holidays, seek out an experience that you

like. Could it be seeing a movie? Visiting a favorite childhood park? The first bite

of a relative’s apple pie? It might even be being grateful to live in your own home

away from these people. Second, enrich that moment. Let it sink in for 10, 20 or

30 seconds. Look for aspects of the experience you may have glossed over initially.

Really feel the warmth and positive glow of the experience. Third, absorb the

moment. This is final step of installing the experience so that you can recall it at any

moment. As you recall it, you will feel that warmth and positivity taking you from a

red reactive state to a green responsive state.


The final step of the process is linking the positive experience with a negative

experience to neutralize it. This can often be the most difficult step because

the negative experience can overwhelm the positive. The help of a trained

psychotherapist can be useful in learning this process. Once you become practiced

in getting yourself into a green or responsive state, your brain will change and

become hardwired for happiness. So, for the holidays, consider following the HEAL

process. Have a good experience, Enrich the experience, Absorb the experience and

one day Link the experience with a negative one to always know that you can have happy

holidays despite annoying relatives and painful memories.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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