It’s no secret that the end of the year can be stressful. This time of year always brings with it a myriad of emotions ranging from joy and excitement to depression. But why? Well as the end of the year draws nearer we often find ourselves faced with surmounting responsibilities. After all, it can be difficult to find time to cook, decorate, gift shop, and entertain, even though we might feel compelled to do so because it is expected of us. It can be even more difficult to afford all of these things, as the holiday season brings with it increased expenditure in the name of giving and receiving. That being said, the holidays can also be extremely rewarding. The emphasis on togetherness and giving brings with it a sense of comfort and closeness not only amongst our families and loved ones but within our communities as well. Holiday traditions such as tree decorating, lighting candles, or baking cookies can put a smile on anyone’s face and help us remember sweet memories of holidays past. In essence, despite all of the stresses brought upon by this time of year, there is, to use the old adage, a silver lining – tinsel, perhaps. Or is there?
What it Means to Truly be Happy
So what makes “holiday cheer” so important? Why must we be cheerful? How does this benefit us? Well firstly, it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between being genuinely happy for the holidays and feeling as though we should be happy. A major distinction between the two is whether or not we genuinely feel good or whether we feel compelled to feign holiday spirit because we believe it’s expected of us. The latter can magnify negative feelings because it removes our happiness from ourselves and turns it into an obligation rather than actual enjoyment. We’ve discussed previously how keeping our true feelings bottled up and hidden can be unhealthy and this time of year is no exception. Numerous studies have detailed how our attitudes can profoundly affect our health and well-being. Dr. Diane Dreher, best-selling author and associate director of the Spiritual and Health Institute, explains: “We pay a price for being too nice. A phony smile may fool others, but cannot fool our bodies…Real positive emotions, on the other hand, help us become healthier, happier, and more successful.”
The Dangers of Faking Happiness
Pretending to be happy when we’re not can actually put us under excessive stress, whereas genuinely allowing feelings of positivity and joy into our lives can enable us to be healthier and even more successful. Psychologist Barbara Frederickson found in her research that “the emotions of joy, elevation, gratitude, and love strengthen our immune systems, making us physically healthier, while broadening our vision and building our resources. Positive emotions help us see more clearly, discover new possibilities, build connections with other people, who support us in our lives and work.” In fact, in order for us to flourish, we need a 3 to 1 ratio of positive emotional experiences to negative ones each day.
Positivity – A Powerful Tool
In other words, genuine positivity can be a powerful influence on our day-to-day lives, and particularly during the holidays when we need it most. Luckily, there are a number of ways we can increase our positivity by consciously building more positive experiences into our lives. A good way to start is by taking time every now and then to pause and ground ourselves in the present moment. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “stop and smell the roses?” There is more truth to this than we might initially realize. These moments of pause and reflection can enable us to see the beauty around us which can benefit our mood and overall wellbeing. Taking time for ourselves is essential to the preservation of our own happiness. To accomplish this, we might take some extra time to meditate to help restore our peace of mind during this hectic time of year and maintain a sense of balance. We might also, however, take time to do something we love, be it creating something, reading a book, or finding something that makes us laugh or smile.
The key is to find something, anything, that we enjoy and remember to treat ourselves as we worry about treating others. While giving is important, we ourselves deserve health and happiness, and it’s important to remember that protecting these things does not make us selfish. After all, the end of the year is a time for celebration, and positivity is something to be nourished and fostered, not simply manifested. Positivity can not only help us survive the end of the year depression that many of us feel, but can also ensure that we enjoy it as well. This year, we must remember to enjoy what makes us happy and take time for ourselves, and, in doing so, feel joyous, instead of simply pretending to be.