The winter holidays always are a time for special joy and happiness, best reflected in the delight and spontaneity of children when they receive an unexpected holiday gift. However, the celebrations of 2020 will be quite unusual because of COVID-19—families, friends and coworkers will not be able to gather as in the past. If small groups do gather, social distance will be required. And annual December parties will not be held in offices and restaurants.
Despite these constraints, essential for the wellbeing of us all, many families and groups will come together virtually to enjoy each other’s company. Some families will share a virtual dinner; some groups will have a virtual gift exchange; some simply will gather virtually to talk and laugh. For all, a primary goal will be to sustain and enjoy social relationships with each other, an essential feature of our humanness.
Several years ago, I wrote a brief paper with my colleague Rosemarie Kobau on happiness for Phi Kappa Phi Forum—what it means, why it is important, and how to improve it. We found that one’s happiness is a key factor in health and longevity: People who are happier live longer because they have lower levels of biochemicals, such as cortisol, that impact adversely upon heart health.
Of great importance, we also found that one’s happiness is not static over time: People can and do increase their own happiness. It is this feature of happiness that I would like to address today, during the 2020 winter holiday season.
How can one increase personal happiness? Three factors seem to play essential roles: how one relates to others; how one does personal assessments, and how one acts on the environment.
Relationships with others. One’s happiness can be increased by nurturing positive relationships with others. Some key ingredients include expressions of gratitude, kindness and forgiveness. One also should avoid social comparisons with others.
Self-assessments. One’s happiness can be increased by appreciating one’s blessings, savoring life’s joys and expressing optimism. One also should develop a strategy for coping, including these sentiments.
Acting on the environment. One’s happiness can be increased by committing to personal goals and undertaking engaging activities. Irrespective of personal beliefs, one can practice spirituality. Finally, it is important to take care of one’s body.
Thus, as we enter this most unusual winter holiday season of 2020, I hope that you will do some of those things that can increase your own happiness. Put new meaning into the greeting “Happy Holidays.” You will benefit, and your family and friends will benefit as well.
Ways You Can Improve Your Own Happiness
- Count your blessings
- Cultivate optimism
- Avoid over-thinking and social comparison
- Practice acts of kindness
- Nurture Relationships
- Do more activities that truly engage you
- Replay and savor life’s joys
- Commit to your goals
- Develop strategies for coping
- Learn to forgive
- Practice religion and spirituality
- Take care of your body
- Focus on and use your natural talents everyday
Sources: Sonya Lyubomirsky; Christopher Peterson; Ilona Boniwell