"Happy Holidays" is a Choice

by Tova Kreps, LCSW

That’s right, happiness is a choice, even over the holidays. You can experience more happiness by taking the following steps:

1) Choose to be happy.

Could happiness be as simple as “trying to be happy”? That is the conclusion of one recent study. Two groups of subjects were requested to listen to happy music. One group was asked to try to be happy while listening. Those who tried actually felt happier than those who did not. According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, proactively cultivating a positive mindset can boost well-being as well as increase performance, productivity, creativity and engagement. In other words, pursuing success may not lead to happiness, but pursuing happiness increases your likelihood of having happiness and success

2) Focus on and express your gratitude.

Directly expressing gratitude to others increases our own happiness scores. Click here for a video on happiness scores.

3) Connect with others.

Research supports our need to connect with others. “Our reactions to others, and theirs to us have a far-reaching biological impact, sending out cascades of hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune systems, making good relationships act like vitamins – and bad relationships like poisons.” (Daniel Goleman, in Social Intelligence. Choose happiness by making the effort to connect with people you enjoy. Take the initiative yourself to connect with an old friend. Send an email or a letter. Put time with those you like on your calendar as a “to do”. Spend time with others without any “agenda” other than being together. Find your own way to connect. Social Media is one way to stay in contact with distant friends and relatives, but human contact is the best. We need touch and human to human interactions.

4) Forgive.

Holding bitterness prevents happiness. Letting go of it frees us.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Pretending it didn’t hurt or didn’t matter.

  • Forgetting what was done

  • Excusing what was done

  • Rescuing the offender from consequences

  • A good happy feeling toward the offender

Forgiveness is:

  • Letting go of your right to revenge

  • Choosing not to focus your energy on justice

  • Accepting that this happened in your life, but it does not need to define YOU.

5) Imagine and ask for what you want.

Picture it and then ask for it from those around you. Tell people what would make you happy. It’s a risk, but we usually don’t receive without asking.

6) Engage in meaningful activities.

If what we are doing has little meaning to us, apathy and boredom are our likely emotions. But, if we are passionate about our ventures, the emotional rewards are much greater in the process.

7) Accept your past losses so that you can live in the present.

When faced with disappointment, anger or sadness, we can accept our losses and then consciously choose to “be happy” anyway.

8) Give to get.

When we give to others, it increases our own happiness state. Giving to others brings up our own sense of self and completeness. It means we have something to give and are therefore in a state of abundance. Giving to others is a way of connecting with others, which also increases our sense of happiness.

Alexandra Delgado