Wait, the Holidays Can Actually Make You Happier?

My friends, if you’re ever done the last-minute gift dash or tried to wrangle food together for countless get-togethers cluttering your calendar around the holidays, you’ve probably already thought how great it would be to skip the holidays, like the couple in “Christmas With the Kranks.” Who hasn’t thought how much better a cruise would be than running around for three weeks straight?

But, go figure: the holidays may be making you happier, even with all the added stress. There’s been plenty of research into this area to back this idea up, too.

Statistically, people from places in the world considered among the happiest tend to have many ways to express gratitude and celebrate life in their cultures. According to social psychologist and author Fred Bryant, when we stop and savor the good things, we build a resilience that helps us tackle daily challenges and the stress that arises from them. Research Bryant has done, along with studies carried out by New Zealand’s Victoria University (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/health/news/article.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=10806685), have demonstrated that things like family holiday celebrations can strengthen relationships and boost physical and mental well-being.

In the New Zealand study, researchers gathered 1,500 adults and 400 children between the ages of 13 and 15 and had them complete detailed questionnaires about what their positive experiences were. Also included were questions about how loved the people felt, how connected to society they were, how much they trusted the world and whether they were on the path to becoming the person they wished to be. These types of queries were included so researchers had a more dynamic picture of happiness instead of just positive emotions alone.

What the researchers found was that even minor things, such as high-fiving another person or actively sharing good news with a friend, actively boosted feelings of happiness. The same applied for self-congratulations and other self-focused positive acts. Family and friends were a large part of the happiness people experienced in the three-year research project, and this included holiday celebrations and traditions.

Even if celebrating holidays can seem like a burden at times, try to celebrate the simple pleasures in life to boost your mood and create the foundation for happiness. The holidays can present a great opportunity for you to reconnect with yourself and other people and put you in a more positive mindset to kick off the new year.