25 Dec Happiness…fantasy vs. reality?
Check out this great series of opinion pieces on happiness from the New York Times
by Sonja Lyubomirsky (HERE)
We look forward to celebrating all year long, cutting out holiday recipes, writing to-do lists, researching gifts and making travel plans. We anticipate the delight on our children’s faces when they open presents, the wonderment we feel during religious rituals, the excitement of a long-awaited vacation, and the joy of reuniting with old family members and friends.
Everyday annoyances can be harder on us than calamities and that daily delights have an impact our well-being more than major events.
Science shows, however, that high expectations are frequently both erroneous and toxic. Toxic because they may lead to letdown and even depression. Erroneous because we focus too much on the salient high points (the vacation or the family feast) and too little on the quotidian chores, uplifts and hassles (the long flight, the hours spent toiling in the kitchen) that are what influence our happiness the most. Researchers have found that everyday annoyances can be harder on us than calamities and that daily delights have a bigger impact on our well-being than more than major events.
In our focus on holiday fun, we overlook the reality that the period is also replete with daily trials, strains and irritations. The cookies are burnt, the car won’t start, the luggage is lost, the alcoholic uncle ruins brunch once again and the children are fighting. We conveniently forget our penchant to become overwrought during car trips or our tendency to revert to adolescent behavior when criticized by a parent or upstaged by a sibling. Accordingly, when our holiday fantasy is confronted by everyday reality, more often than not, it fails to live up.
Why aren’t we happier during the holidays? Perhaps because we set unrealistic expectations. We focus so much on creating holiday magic, but the season’s enjoyment is perhaps best found by limiting the number of daily aggravations we face. It might not look like the holiday of our dreams, but simplifying the menu, limiting the number of presents bought or reducing our hours spent traveling might just result in the most elusive of holiday gifts: a happy surprise.