The holidays can be a difficult time of year if you don’t have a lot of family and friends around. Unfortunately, not everyone can follow Perry Como’s advice and be “home for the holidays.” No matter where you are or what you are struggling with, these quick pick-me-up exercises from My Pocket Positivity: Anytime Exercises That Boost Optimism, Confidence, and Possibility by Courtney E. Ackerman can help you get through the season!

Look for the Silver Lining

One of the ways in which resilient people differ is in their ability to see the positive in any situation, also known as finding the silver lining. To build your resilience, the next time you are faced with a challenging situation, find a quiet moment to sit and think. Come up with at least one positive outcome of your situation. For instance, if you are alone for the holidays you can use the solitude to catch up on a long forgotten project, or a good book.

Once you become adept at finding the silver lining, you can aim to come up with a balance of positive and negative effects instead of one solitary good thing.

Savor Something Good

The practice of savoring is an easy and effective way to increase positive emotions. Savoring refers to directing all of your attention toward something you are experiencing with one (or more) of your senses.

If you’ve never tried savoring before, it is best to begin with food. Grab something you like to eat around the holidays, or something that you’re excited to try, and go to a quiet place where you can sit uninterrupted.

Take a moment or two to just smell the food before taking a bite. Hold that first bite in your mouth for a moment, feeling the texture and the temperature, noting all the tastes that combine to make the food. Chew slowly and mindfully before swallowing, then note whether there is a lingering taste in your mouth once the food is gone.

Eat the rest of your food in this manner. Once you have mastered savoring food, challenge yourself to savor more complicated things, like taking in the beautiful winter scenery.

Double the Good

In this exercise, you will trick your brain into experiencing a positive event twice, doubling the impact of the event on your well-being.

Think about the most positive thing that has happened to you in the last 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be something big—it could be meeting a new person at a holiday party, a gift you didn’t expect, or learning something new.

Whatever you have in mind, consider every detail of your experience. It may help you to write these features down on a piece of paper or in your notebook. By recalling this experience in detail, you are stimulating your brain into living this experience all over again, doubling the feel-good chemicals and cementing positive memories.

Do One Thing Differently

Sometimes all it takes to look on the bright side is changing one single action. When you feel overwhelmed or bogged down with a problem, it can paralyze you with fear of doing the wrong thing.

Deciding on a course of action and taking just one step toward that course can break the paralysis.

The next time you are struggling with this kind of situation, such as, “do I make the trek to see my family across the country for the holidays, or stay home and get some much needed rest,” ask yourself one important question: “What one thing could I do differently to improve my situation?”

Come up with a few different options, and decide on which one is the best. It might be the easiest step you could take right now, or the one that will set you up for future steps. Whatever it is, take it and run with it!

Write a Gratitude Letter

Begin by thinking about someone who did something good for you and who you have not thanked.

Focusing on this act of generosity, remind this person what they did for you, and be as detailed and specific as you can (e.g., write “You gave me this specific advice…” rather than “You were always so helpful…”). Describe what this act meant to you at the time and what it means to you today. Tell him or her how it impacted your life and what you are doing now, if it is someone from your past.

Finally, thank this person sincerely for his or her action.

The end of this exercise is up to you—you can either keep this letter, or you can actually send it out. Whichever ending you go with, you will enjoy an increase in gratitude.

Happy holidays!

Excerpted from My Pocket Positivity: Anytime Exercises That Boost Optimism, Confidence, and Possibility by Courtney E. Ackerman Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


  • Courtney E. Ackerman (Sacramento) has lived in various places around the US, as well as spending a year in the UK as a child. These experiences spurred the development of a curiosity about people that never abated, and she indulged her interests by majoring in psychology with a focus on cognitive science and statistics. Courtney continued her love affair with learning through Claremont Graduate University in California, where she earned her master’s degree in Positive Organizational Psychology and Evaluation. Courtney is currently working as a researcher and growing her recently established freelancing business. She is especially interested in compassion, well-being at work, and survey development and analysis. She is a regular contributor to the popular website When she’s not working, she’s usually spending time with her dogs, reading a book, visiting a nearby winery, or playing video games with her husband.