Every year, the media bombards us with advertisements showing the “happy family” gathering for the holidays.

People from different generations are together, having a wonderful time, sharing traditions of old and creating new ones as well.

It is not that way, though, for a great number of individuals. For those who don’t have families of their own, or for those who live alone and have relatives living far away, holidays often bring heartbreak and depression.

One way to avoid feeling depressed is to control the holidays; do not let them control you. This requires planning. If you cannot be with family, try to spend time with friends or neighbors instead.

Here are some suggestions to brighten your holidays.

  1. Go on a cruise or take a vacation to another part of the country.
  2. Give of yourself by visiting someone you know who will also be alone but cannot get out for the holiday.
  3. Get involved with an activity that benefits individuals less fortunate than you. In helping those who are less fortunate than yourself, you can forget some of your own troubles and receive a real blessing.
  4. Invite others who are alone to your home to share the holiday. You can prepare a meal for them or go out to a restaurant. Socialization always helps ease depression.
  5. Exercise! Physical activity releases endorphins that decrease stress and make you feel better. Laughing vigorously has the same results.

If you are planning a holiday celebration, suggestions include:

  • Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegate responsibilities and activities so that one person is not taking on more than can be accomplished without help.
  • Remember: You are not responsible for everyone else’s holiday happiness.
  • Work on your attitude. Take frequent deep breaths. This technique should be used not only during the holiday period, but every day.
  • Any task that you have chosen to do, whether it is the shopping, cooking, cleaning or decorating, is to be viewed as a choice that you made. Have fun in tackling these tasks, which will make the holiday easier and keep your spirits positive.
  • Start traditions that make the most sense to you in your life now. It doesn’t always have to be done the same way every year.

The holidays should be a time to have fun and make special memories with those you care about. After the holiday, sit down, relax and count your blessings.

Remind yourself how fortunate you are. When you make an effort to have a joyous, stress-free holiday, you can.

The key is to plan ahead and to ask for – and accept – help.

Rachel Carson is a Certified Senior Advisor and the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving the Lowcountry since 1997.