Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Kathryn co-edited the third book in the series, Character Strengths Matter, with Shannon Polly. Their co-authored articles are here.
Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.
Editor’s Note: Today the authors and editors of PPND share some suggestions for thriving during the holiday season. Some people write about ways to celebrate joyfully, while others write about ways to deal with holiday stresses.
This is the second in a 4-part series for the end of 2010, starting with the Holiday Book List for 2010. The authors are in reverse alphabetical order so that our Z authors have a chance to come first. For additional holiday ideas, see the 2008 Holiday Ideas article.
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya: Remembering that we are all one and that the apparent differences, frustrations, and contrast are there to keep us learning, growing and to keep life interesting. When someone or something triggers me, I ask myself, “How is this a reflection to me of something I need to look at in my own life?”
Yukun Zhao: Good Consumerism – when you buy gifts for people about whom you care, don’t just think about how happy they will be when you receive the gifts. Also think about how your gifts can make them flourish. In other words, can your gifts help them experience more flow, find more meaning in their lives, achieve more, have better interpersonal relationships, besides having positive emotions? This earlier PositivePsychologyNews.com article, Giving Gifts might stimulate further thinking about happiness-inducing gifts.
On the other hand, also think about how you can make your life more joyful by giving gifts. For example, a visit to your parents may be more valuable than any gift you can buy them, while it boosts your own happiness as well. Donate money to a charity your friend cares about in her name. Bring your nephew to a natural science museum. There are many things you can do besides simply spending money.
Emily Van Sonnenberg: Always keep a non-family member in the mix — it will diffuse any existing tension. Family members are less likely to argue when in the presence of a stranger. Doubly, inviting a non-family member will give persons whose families they cannot be with a place to celebrate the holidays.
Yee-Ming Tan: Investing in experience, not buying stuff.
Angus Skinner: A good book to escape to.
But not too often.
Dave Shearon:Remember the brief summary of positive psychology from that great sage, Chris Peterson:
“Other people matter.”
Not presents, decorations, or dinners. People. Keep that in perspective, people!
Marie-Josee Shaar: Get enough sleep! If too much partying means less sleeping, enjoyment will go down for sure! The body uses sleep time to balance our biochemical activity. If we don’t leave our bodies enough time to do its work, we end up with too much stress hormones, and not enough feel-good neurotransmitters. The result is that we feel more irritable and less energetic – that’s a poor start to any party, and definitely a extra challenge as we try to get a fresh start to the New Year!
- Don’t overschedule yourself.
- Appreciate what you have.
- Avoid comparisons.
- Speak with love.
Elaine O’Brien: Appreciation of our health, and the health of those we love, is one of the best gifts in the world. Giving to others helps lift our spirits. In my dance/fitness classes we are holding a food drive for the Food Bank, and we have collected holiday gifts for children through “Christmas Around the World.” Our Dance Team (very active seniors from 60-94 years young) will perform for the annual Holiday Luncheon at the Breakers Hotel. I am also volunteering to serve dinner at the Senior Center holiday party. Giving feels great.
Another practical tip is to start shopping early; I try to avoid the crush of last minute shopping at all costs, though I am sure some people thrive on this. You can get great gifts in off-beat places like the supermarket. Museums, church stores, and bookstores are always great for presents.
Finally, I am very interested in learning about cross-cultural celebrations and am studying how people celebrate holiday traditions around the world.
Jeremy McCarthy: Hold your family members in “unconditional positive regard” while allowing them to be who they are.
Senia Maymin: Get some time to be alone, some quiet time for yourself. The concern of Bowling Alone is all very well, but people cannot be surrounded by other people all the time. See research by Christopher Long and colleagues on different kinds of solitude and their benefits.
Nicholas Hall: Only spend time with the people you care about, and avoid those that try to bring you down. Send those people a nice card instead.
Bridget Grenville-Cleave: One of the reasons people can get stressed at this time of the year is because they think that everything has to be perfect, so my number one tip would be to accept that good enough is OK.
I’d also encourage you to think about those who are less fortunate – there are millions of people young and old across the world who won’t be celebrating this holiday season. Reminding yourself of their circumstances puts bickering in perspective.
And if all else fails, be mindful!
Margaret Greenberg: Don’t think you have to cram everything in during the month of December. January is a wonderful time to send cards and visit friends.
Sherri Fisher: For dealing with emotionally charged difficult events, try these approaches:
- Do something that makes you very happy before the potentially troubling event. Broaden and build positive emotion. Use those resources to make it through tough times.
- If you don’t have to attend an event that leads to bad vibes and bickering, don’t go! Take a vacation from it this year. If you miss attending, try again next year. If you don’t miss it and feel great, lesson learned!
- If you have to go, practice a version of active-constructive responding (ACR) with difficult people. This approach just requires that you ask questions–lots of them–that get the other people to talk about themselves instead of you providing answers or being defensive. Arrive a little late/leave a little early and decide to focus on what is good while you are there. It could be anything. The weather, the food, the decorations, the scent of candles–anything good, from your point of view.
Sean Doyle: Here is something we did a few years ago with the kids: Rather than fill their stocking with toys and candy, Santa left something similar to a “gratitude letter” for each child in his or her stocking. After all, Santa sees them when they are sleeping, remember? Tears of joy were streaming down their faces as they read the things that Santa and mom and dad admired and appreciated about them.
Aren Cohen: Videotaping! Nowadays, most digital cameras have a video record feature. Equally, we can access and watch videos in ways that are so much easier than they used to be. (Remember setting up the screen and the projector in the 1970’s?) We know from Barbara Fredrickson’s idea of Positive Portfolios in her book Positivity, that collecting things (such as photos) can make us happy when we reflect upon them. The same is true with video, which allows you to savor a previous moment in more detail, recalling the words said, the full facial expressions.
After my husband and I got engaged, we went to my parents’ house, and they made us reenact our engagement conversation on video. Having a moment from those first few days of excitement for posterity is magical. I don’t watch the video often, but when I do, it makes my heart sing. During the holidays, especially, capturing not only the expression but the dialogue as you open gifts or wish in the New Year is a great way not only to celebrate, but to be able to enjoy that fantastic moment again and again.
Denise Clegg: I would offer the same tip for the holidays and the new year — to consider the following thought, offered by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the British Commonwealth during the Interfaith Summit on Happiness with the Dalai Lama (Link to full program)
He quotes the statement of Rav in the Jerusalem Talmud: “In the world to come a person will have to give a count of every legitimate pleasure that he or she deprived themselves of in this life.”
Sulynn Choong: Practice the three A’s – acknowledge, appreciate, amplify – for greater enjoyment. Remember that no one wakes up with the intention to mess up the day for self or others so relax and let it pass.
Kathryn Britton: Holidays aren’t uniformly happy times. They bring sad memories of good times lost, of people who are no longer here, of earlier dreams that haven’t materialized. For yourself, cultivate mindfulness — the ability to observe your negative emotions without judging them and especially without saying to yourself, “What’s the matter with me that I’m sad when everyone else [appears to be] so joyful?” For others, remember that gentle touch is more powerful than words.
Look at the stars. If the weather or ambient lighting makes that difficult, look at the Astropic site, where a new astronomy photo is posted every day. Look back through the archives for beautiful pictures, such as moonrise through Mauna Kea’s Shadow.
Long, C., Seburn, M., Averill, J. R. & More, T. (2003). Solitude Experiences: Varieties, Settings, and Individual Differences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(5), 578-583.