Traditions around the Christmas can bring joy and create connection. If you’re eager to hit the reset button on your holiday celebration and make it a much merrier occasion, doing so is easier than you think. Many of our traditions come from Pagan origins, and as we include intention and ritual during the festive season, the focus shifts from overwhelm and into happiness. People who are happier around the holidays often have traditions that strengthen social connections and help them to feel a sense of belonging.
Ways to counteract the holiday blues and include rituals into this time, has shown to raise a sense of happiness:
• Creating traditions that feel fun and reliable
• Connecting to your family history (this can be family you were born into or the family you choose)
The following rituals allow you to feel that you are part of something bigger:
Studies have shown that giving time or money boosts your feelings of happiness and connection. If you have a holiday tradition—like volunteering at a soup kitchen, delivering meals, or filling stockings for children in need—the benefits multiply. Both the receiver and the giver have positive outcomes. If you don’t already have a tradition of altruism, you may want to start one this year.
Holidays are filled with tastes that you only enjoy only once or twice each year. Cooking during the festive season is different than everyday cooking. It is an activity you often do in collaboration with friends and family. Meals become a labour of love. Deep conversations happen while peeling potatoes and decorating shortbread. The smells and tastes can bring a sense of “home” no matter where you are. Even the post-meal clean-up feels more fun when you do it in a group.
This festive time of year comes with seasonal songs. These range from timeless hymns, holiday hits, and those funny songs you sang in your grade school choir. The physiological benefits of singing include stress reduction, improved immunity, and reduced muscle tension. It’s also pretty powerful at combating depression. Singing or listening to seasonal music fosters connection to your past, to those with whom shared your past and with the others singing with you in the present moment.
Wreaths on your door, decorations and objects are tied to specific memories from your past. If the memories are wonderful, by replaying them in your mind with gratitude you increase their power of positivity. Reflecting fondly on the past activates the same area of your brain as the original joy—like an instant reply.
If the memories are tense or less positive you have the opportunity to relegate them to your past and move forward using humor, forgiveness, and gratitude that you are no longer in this past.
Using the “good china” at holiday meals also imbibes a meal with importance and a sense of connectedness to those who share your family history; this brings security and a sense of belonging.
If you don’t have strong traditions yet, don’t worry—this year is the perfect time to begin.
Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind:
1. Less is more. Too many traditions lead to more busyness and less time to enjoy. Make sure there is balance.
2. Prioritize connection. The sense that you are part of something larger is the single strongest predictor of happiness that you have.
3. Schedule time for traditions. Forming a habit or tradition requires a strategy; the simplest one is to put it on your calendar. What gets scheduled gets done!
4. Don’t forget down time. Holiday time can be hectic. To be at your best make sure you get enough rest. Having a day where the entire family stays in pajamas or a day where there is nothing at all scheduled will help you to feel better during this jam-packed time of year.
5. Replace expectation with appreciation. Having preconceived ideas about how things will go is a recipe for disaster. Instead, practice being grateful. Gratitude helps you to remember all the truly good things in your life with a sense of reverence.
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