As 2018 comes to a close, it’s a good idea to … (stop, take a breath) … pause and reflect on the things that matter most. That may seem counter-intuitive if you’re rushing around for that last gift, but doing so can make the holidays more meaningful and enjoyable—no matter what is happening around you.

[FYI: You don’t need that Brava stove, nor really does anyone else on your list. Yes, it’s so “21st century.”  Instead, here’s some ideas from Resourceful PDX for other ways to approach the 21st century that help you make simple changes to save money, support your community, conserve natural resources and enjoy more time with friends and family .]

As I pause and reflect on my blog posts this year, there are five fundamentals for your mental health and well-being that I’d like to share again. Ideally, they will both help you through this busy time and also provide tools for planning an even better 2019.

The short descriptions capture the main idea. If it piques your interest, click the link to look back on the full post!

1.  Coping with the Modern World

Key takeaway – These are fractious times. For many of my clients, whether they look at politics or the economy or the environment, there are reasons for grave concern. Be mindful of this fact and have a plan for moving forward with your own life, regardless of what happens with things outside your control. This doesn’t mean you should give up or ignore the world around you. The point is to take action that is meaningful to you, find your own momentum, and then let the rest be.

2. Overcoming “Psychological Code Debt

Key takeaway – “Psychological code debt” may flare up or become more apparent during the holidays. If you go home to family, there may be unhealthy family dynamics that re-assert themselves in the old environment you evolved in. Just as old, inefficient code on a computer can eventually become a problem that slows or tanks a technical system, psychological code debt that is unrecognized or unaddressed can negatively affect your life today. Addressing it allows you to redirect your energy to new, more effective ways of coping.

3.  Maintaining Daily Mental Well-being

Key takeaway – By their very nature, holidays can raise unrealistic expectations about what you hope will happen. Dreams of receiving the “perfect” gift, experiencing peace and companionability around the dinner table, or having nonstop “good times” may be dashed by reality. While the holidays can be a special time, it’s important to maintain your perspective.  This post describes my “10 essentials for mental well-being.” These range from practicing gratitude to exercising outside (with the right seasonal gear, of course). The best way to enjoy yourself is to continue whatever routines you normally do to maintain your health and happiness. Then add the holidays on top as bonus. (Not the other way around!)

4. Optimizing Seasonal Wellness

Key takeaway – Beneath the holiday rush, there are real, Earth-based changes occurring that can affect your mood and outlook. Darkness comes much earlier now and temperatures cool as the Earth heads towards the shortest day of the year. Small adjustments to your diet, exercise and activities can help you maintain your mental equilibrium throughout this period until we turn the corner to brighter days. Rather than retreating indoors, it’s important to find the fun in every season. This post offers ideas for how to do that.

5. Using Nature to Improve Mental Health

Key takeaway – Research repeatedly shows that there is a positive link between exposure to nature and the relief of stress and anxiety. Whether walking in the park outside your door or attempting to scale a mountain peak, exercising in the presence of nature can be calming, help you focus and increase your creativity. This post describes the Nature Pyramid (like the Food Pyramid) which can make it easier to integrate more “helpings” of nature into your life.

While I hope you find all five posts valuable, ask yourself which one(s) resonate most with you and take action. Small steps performed consistently can have a huge impact over time. That’s more realistic than trying to act on all five at once.


I wish you joy for the Solstice Time and all Holidays you celebrate! And if you’d like to plan a happier, healthier 2019 with some help, please do contact me.

—Dr. Thomas Doherty

Published by Thomas Doherty

Psychologist Thomas Doherty's work on environmental sustainability and health has been featured in publications like the New York Times and in talks worldwide. Thomas consults with individuals and organizations through his business Sustainable Self. He was the founding Director of the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School and Founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed academic journal Ecopsychology. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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