Deepak Chopra
Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
Two weeks ago, I offered suggestions on how to have an inspiring holiday season . Thinking about it later, I realized that there's an even bigger opportunity this time of year. If you could use this whole month to find a basis for true happiness, wouldn't that be the greatest blessing of all?

Charles Dickens showed the way when he took Scrooge's "Bah! Humbug!" and refused to settle for that simple expression of disgust. Instead, he looked deeper and found out the specific reasons that turned a young man's joy and hope into an old man's bitterness and regret. A Christmas Carol isn't just the story of how one man learned to love Christmas—it's about how he found the key to happiness all year.

One of the main keys to happiness all year is to detoxify your life. So let's start at the most basic level. Sit down and ask yourself, "What aspects of the holidays are spoilers?" Here's a list of things that bring people down over Christmas and Hanukkah:

  • Too many crowds
  • Hectic shopping
  • Time pressure
  • Being around people you don't really like
  • Eating and drinking too much
  • Backsliding into old bad habits
  • Feeling depressed
  • Being forced out of your comfortable routine
  • Pretending to be in a holiday mood when you aren't
  • Feeling lonely and/or unappreciated
  • Spending too much money

As you can see, most of these things aren't specific to the holidays; they are magnified versions of what brings us down at any time of the year. Being magnified, they look harder to deal with. But if you turn the situation around, when you magnify something under a microscope, it becomes clearer and easier to understand.

In this case, everything on the list calls for a new attitude and a different way of behaving. Too many crowds and hectic shopping? Don't take the attitude that you are stressed, pressured and victimized. Separate the toxic part of shopping and choose only the nontoxic part. The nontoxic part is giving. You don't have to shop till you drop in order to give. Buy your presents online. Sit and think in advance of just the right present, and don't buy a thing until your choice makes you happy. Pay more attention to the person who will receive your gift, and make it your aim to truly see what would make them happy when you give it to them.

Any item on the list can be detoxified. Backsliding into old bad habits? The toxins here is lack of control, a sense of guilt, feeling that you let yourself down and being weak in the face of temptation. What to do? Write down your worst temptation—overeating, drinking to excess, being rude or confrontational—and carry the list with you. Keep away from the top three things on your list. The easiest way to avoid temptation is to stay away from it. If you find yourself in a tempting situation, take a brief time-out. Walk away and look at your list, which will remind you to be conscious of your weaker impulses. A little awareness goes a long way.

How self-awareness can protect you and heal your life