Post Holiday Blues

Creative Commons License
by DCH Park

A friend shared with me once that he has noticed that, as the years go by, he is less and less involved in Christmas, New Year, and the whole end-of-year holiday ritual. In my own experience, having small children around can help to make the holidays seem more exciting but personally, I feel very ambivalent about teaching another generation to embrace the culture of stuff. (If you haven’t seen the Story of Stuff, yet, go to storyofstuff.com. It is an entertaining and thought-provoking 20-minute animation that is well worth your time.)

Regardless of your own political and economic view of holiday rituals, like it or not, closely following the celebrations, is the time to clean up, pay the piper, and return unwanted gifts, but this prospect can weigh on the spirit. Not only can cleanup feel enervating, arguably gift-giving itself is bad for the economy. For one economist’s intriguing view of the inefficiency inherent in gift giving, go to http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/12/21/132203873/the-tuesday-podcast-making-christmas-more-joyful-and-more-efficient.

As my friend noted, it’s never as much fun taking down holiday decorations and putting them away as it is to put them up in the first place. After the New Year celebrations are over and the time to reassemble your life arrives, a sense of ennui or depression can set in. For some people the blues can encourage long delays in taking down decorations. I have a few neighbors who seem to keep their decorations up well into the new year with one or two who seem to hold onto them until March every year!

For most, the post-holiday depression is generally mild but it can linger. A feeling of lassitude, perhaps stemming from the combination of large amounts of rich foods and sweets with warm beds, long nights, and winter temperatures outside, it can make it feel hard to rise in the morning. A routine of early rising and focused work that seemed to flow effortlessly into the beginning of December might feel hard to get back to. Simply getting out of bed in the morning can seem like a chore.

At such times it can be very helpful to remember that the divisions between mind, body, and spirit are illusory. Most scholars trace the modern view of the mind/body split to Rene Descartes, the sixteenth century French philosopher, mathematician, physicist, and writer after whom the standard Cartesian x, y coordinate system in geometry is named.

In fact, evidence from many fields increasingly supports the view that in fact there is no real separation between mind, body, and spirit. They are best understood as different aspects of the same thing. Imagine an object floating in space. A light shined on it from one direction produces a shadow of a triangle. From a different direction, the same light and object cast a shadow of a rectangle. From a third direction, the shadow is square. Which is the “true” shadow of the object?

In much the same way, the body, the mind, and the spirit are all different aspects of a single, multidimensional self. What affects any one of the three leaves traces in the others, just as beating the object with a hammer to change the square shadow also affects the rectangle and triangle shadows.

If you are feeling blue because of the end of the holidays or for any other reason, one of the best ways to change this is to move your body. Engage in some physical activity. Go running or work out at the gym. Practice yoga or shovel snow. Go dancing or hiking. Any physical activity that gets your heart beating will also move your energy. As the energy begins to flow once more, the feeling of depression and weariness will vanish.

Creative Commons License
“Post Holiday Blues” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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