Year after year, the mere mention of the holidays can launch an avalanche of feelings, from moments of delight to arm’s-length dread. To-do lists for work and home explode as the fiscal quarter (and for many, the fiscal year) ends, bonuses hang in the balance, and expectations rise from all sides.

And this year in particular, with dreadful news assaulting us on the air and online, the idea of any delight may seem like a distant dream.

But there is hope for your holiday season. And, paradoxically, it comes largely from dropping your holiday expectations.

That doesn’t mean giving up! What it means is, you can be happy even if events (no matter how ballyhooed) or people (no matter how important) disappoint you. Knowing this is the beginning of—and the foundation for—comfort and joy.

But how? Here are three ways.

Start small. Longing for magic? Stop seeking it in big events. Discover what you’re missing in the ordinary, that is, in the nearby and now. Notice your feet on the floor, the rhythm of your own breathing, the warmth of your coffee cup. Take a moment to register these sensations.

By directing your attention to your experience right now, as you read this, you restore and strengthen your emotional balance. So if traffic is bad, gifts ill-received or carolers off-key, you’re more likely to take things in stride.

And if things happen to go beautifully, your appreciation will deepen.

Accept yourself. When you accept yourself—with all your flaws—in a loving, compassionate way, you tend to interact more positively with others, regardless of circumstances.

Experts call this “spacious compassion.” By making space in our imaginations for things to be different from what we expect, we learn to accept those things—including our own imperfections—as they are.

We learn to expand the circumstances within which we can be happy.

And suddenly—voilàwe realize we’re growing happier.

Pause on purpose. Even mindfulness experts accept, it’s easy to get wrapped up in year-end activities at work and at home. Bouncing from one thing to another leaves us less time than usual to rest, which can leave us exhausted or hyper-emotional before we know it.

But by taking moments to pause mindfully, you can direct your attention to things that nurture and calm you. Introduce frequent pauses—such as whenever you have coffee or start the car—to focus momentarily on your surroundings and sensations.

By pausing and observing periodically, you can regulate your emotions—and build balance that you can rely on in stressful situations, whenever they arise.

Remember, no matter how busy you get, no matter how Scrooge-like those around you become, no matter how flat the champagne or the singing, you are ultimately in charge of your own reactions—and the emotions that follow.

By bringing mindful awareness to individual moments, you can create happiness and choose peace of mind.

May your holidays be rich with images and events in which you can find and feel joy. And may your gratitude for these experiences overflow into the New Year.