Cultivating True Happiness During the Holidays


Do you remember what it feels like to experience pure joy and happiness during the holidays? Do you remember a time when you were just excited about the holidays without the stress and worry of trying to get it all done in time?  

Do you wish you could feel that way again? If so, keep reading to unlock the secrets behind being happy every day, even in the midst of the busy holiday season. After all, it is “the most magical time of the year.”

The Science of Happiness

We’re going to dig a little bit into science here, but not too much because it is the holiday season and we’re busy mamas with lots of things to do! 

In Dan Gilbert’s Ted Talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, he describes two types of happiness- natural and synthetic. Natural happiness is the result of getting something you want. Synthetic happiness is what we make of it when we don’t get what we want. So, what that means is, you really CAN create your own happiness.  

Some key takeaways from his talk:

  1. A happy life is not always about getting what you want. It’s about learning to enjoy what you get.  If you’re a fan of Pinkalicious, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” ?  What a perfect lesson to teach our kids this time of year!
  2. Synthetic happiness is not “cheating” yourself to be happier. 
  3. Natural happiness relies on external (aka uncontrollable) factors, whereas synthetic happiness relies on internal (aka controllable) factors. 
  4. General overall happiness comes from the relationships between natural and synthetic.  

As someone who promotes a natural lifestyle, I typically avoid anything that involves the word synthetic. I guess it is time for a reframe. ?‍♀️

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

How to Give Yourself a Boost of Serotonin, the Happy Hormone

  1. Focus on positive memories. Think back to truly joyful holiday memories.  
  2. Get some sunshine. It’s not so easy these days, but don’t underestimate the power of fresh air and sunshine. It’s no coincidence we are more tired and grumpy in the winter, when the sun only makes a rare appearance. Exposure to sunshine helps your body produce vitamin D which helps your body produce serotonin. At the very least, you might want to consider a vitamin D supplement.  
  3. Low-intensity exercise. Kill two birds with one stone by going for a walk outside when the sun is shining.  

How to Give Yourself a Boost of Dopamine, the Pleasure Hormone

  1. Set specific, measurable goals and ACHIEVE them. The goal here is to make goals you know you can achieve. Start with “feed the kids.” This is not the time of year to put extra pressure on yourself!
  2. Exercise. Sorry, we just can’t get away from this one. Dopamine levels rise with serotonin during exercise. The trick here is to find something you enjoy that involves moving your body. It doesn’t have to be P90X or some other form of torture. Just move your body, get your heart rate up, and have FUN.   

How to Give Yourself a Boost of Oxytocin, the Love Hormone

  1. Get a massage. It’s time to cash in those gift cards you might have lying around. If you don’t have any, ask for some. They’re the perfect stocking stuffer. Prolonged physical contact releases oxytocin. It also releases stored up toxins. Get pampered, amp up your love hormone, and send those toxins on their way out!
  2. Hug and cuddle loved ones often. Grab those sweet little cherubs of yours and squeeze them tight over and over again.  

Practice Gratitude

Now is the perfect time of year to practice gratitude. Science shows people who regularly practice gratitude experience more joy, pleasure, optimism, and happiness. Be a role model for your kids, so they learn to be more grateful.  

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

  1. Start a gratitude journal.  This is great for kids too!  You can find some really cute and sweet journals for kids online. Read more about one of contributors journey with The Gratitude Project.
  2. Prayers of gratitude can be the most powerful form of prayer. 
  3. Keep visual reminders to trigger mindfulness and gratitude. Place them all around you.  
  4. Smile. Say thank you. Write letters of gratitude. Imagine how your close family and friends would feel if they found a note from you expressing your gratitude for them in their holiday card this year.

Happiness is contagious, our happiness will have a positive effect on our friends, and our friends’ friends. #rippleeffect

Tis’ the Season for Giving

Research has found that possessing wealth and material goods does not lead to happiness but giving them away actually does. I’m not so sure my 11-year-old son would be very happy if I gave away his Playstation, but you get the gist. ?

Ways to Give Back Without Spending Money

  1. Volunteer.  
  2. Cook for those in need.
  3. Give blood.
  4. Become a mentor.
  5. Help seniors in need.
  6. Boost a soldier’s spirits. (especially this time of year)
  7. Help build a house.
  8. Share your skills and magic with the world. 

Ways to Create Happiness During the Holidays

  1. Savor the moment. For example, when you’re walking your dog in the freezing cold, think of all the benefits you and your dog are getting instead of treating it like a chore.  
  2. Take control of your time. Prioritize and learn to say no.
  3. Act happy. Fake it till you make it. ?
  4. Exercise. (Seriously, you just can’t escape this one!)
  5. Make time for sleep. Yes, MAKE time.  
  6. Give time and attention to close relationships. We are social beings and close relationships keep us happier and healthier.  
  7. Be mindful. The best present you can give your kids is to be present with them. Give them your undivided attention and cherish the small moments with them.  
  8. Express gratitude.
  9. Give more. There is no lack of ways to give this holiday season. Reach out to someone in need.  

Do you ever get the post-holiday blues? All that rushing around, all the planning and preparations, all the money spent, all the cooking and baking, and it’s over in an instant! If you tend to feel this way after the holidays, here is some very sage advice from a very trusted source:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Dr. Seuss

The key to happiness is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.  

What are some ways you are going to cultivate happiness this holiday season?