Does success lead to happiness or does happiness lead to success? According to author and Psychologist Shawn Achor, the latter is true. If you increase your level of positivity in the present, the brain will experience something termed “The Happiness Advantage”. Achor states most business models, education models and even parenting styles teach hard work leads to success which in turn leads to happiness. This formula is broken and backwards according to a 12 year of study at Harvard University. How does one achieve the Happiness Advantage?
At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.” It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts. All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people. Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time. The shopping. The parties. The neighbor gifts. The decorating. The list goes on and on. I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.
1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays. This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress. Is it handing out neighbor gifts? Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge? Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…
2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season. Cookie making? Decorating the tree? If it brings joy write it down. At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy. Once you have that list…
3) Prioritize. This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation. If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties. If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others. The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress. This may change every year. One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree. Another year we only attended select Christmas parties. We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.
4) Make special time for yourself and your significant other. There is so much emphasis on family this time of year. That is such a wonderful thing. I love being together with my family and close friends. Sometimes we forget that we need time for ourselves that does not include Christmas shopping or planning Christmas magic for our family. Take some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the season. Take time with your spouse to be together without throngs of people around. It will make a big difference.
5) Be grateful. Being grateful always grounds me to be content and joyful. Especially at this time of year I love to keep a daily gratitude journal. It helps keep me centered on what I already have instead of what I need or want as gifts from other people. Everyday take an inventory of the blessings you have in your life. It will create a wonderful perspective for the season.
Good luck! Hopefully as you create and maintain some good boundaries this year your holiday season will be less stressful and more enjoyable.