Traditionally Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill. And despite the restrictions and challenges we are currently facing, it’s arrival remains an opportunity to boost your own and others’ wellbeing. In this blog we focus on how we can bring some joy to the world with a few tips for a joyful festive season.
After the challenging year we have had, the festive season will hopefully bring a moment of peace and calm. In the midst of the ongoing challenges of Covid it won’t be easy to make the most of this time. With limits on social gatherings still in place, worries about loved ones and extra precautions needed to prevent the spread of infection, it is going to be challenging to truly feel the joy of Christmas this year.
So here are a few tips for a joyful festive season.
The power of giving
Research on prosocial purchasing has found that when we spend money on ourselves we feel good. But buying nice things for others makes us feel even happier. The Western tradition of giving gifts at Christmas provides us with a perfect opportunity for boosting our own and others’ happiness and wellbeing.
Our lives are so busy that giving our time and attention to someone else can feel like the most expensive of gifts. As French philosopher Simone Weil says “Attention is the rarest and purist form of generosity”. Giving our attention to someone else has potential to boost positive emotions and feelings of peace and goodwill. When we give time to others, research shows that we experience an increase in wellbeing and feelings of self-efficacy. We can even feel more time affluent as a result. And this means we are more likely to feel able to make time for other people in the future.
Research shows that when people are kind to us, we experience positive emotions. But we actually experience more positive emotions when we express kindness to others. This is great news as it means that just by taking a moment to offer some support or help to someone else, we can not only boost their wellbeing but also our own. Thinking about what someone else might need and trying to offer it, whether it is a listening ear, gifts or support with a task, will help you to feel the festive spirit. In this small way you will be spreading a little joy to the world.
When we experience gratitude, we are paying attention to positive emotions. We shift the spotlight of our attention to what is good or right in our lives. Gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes, sometimes in connection with others or relating to a positive experience. We may feel grateful for a beautiful sunset, an unexpected email or card from a friend, a chat with a neighbour or a moment of calm.
Gratitude connects us with other people and boosts our wellbeing. Research shows that if we express gratitude, writing a letter or phoning someone who has meant a lot to us, we experience a lasting boost to our mental health and wellbeing. Try writing a thank you letter for gifts or time that you have received over the festive period and see for yourself how this lifts your mood.
Celebrations such as Christmas are a time for rituals. When we regularly meet up with family and friends for the festive period, we find ourselves falling into patterns that repeat. Although this may not sound so appealing or feel a little unspontaneous, these rituals can serve us well. When we know what our role is, the activities we need to be doing and that those jobs contribute to a bigger picture, we feel connected and a sense of belonging. We know where we stand and might feel appreciated for doing our bit. Feeling connected with others through these familiar rituals builds trust which helps us to feel calm, safe and content. Research shows that following rituals and generating positive emotions in this way at our traditional gatherings helps to reduce stress levels and limits potential for conflict.
This year, with restrictions affecting many of us, these rituals may not be as easy to follow. Perhaps we are not all able to meet in the same way, some key people are absent or certain roles will not be filled. Thinking ahead of time about a contingency plan for who does what, and when, will help to minimise disruption. But ensuring that we create opportunities to connect with one another, however we can, and to take some time for rest and recovery this year will be more important than ever.