Christmas is a time of joy and happiness, yet for many that is not the case.
The rates of people experiencing sadness and depression often increases during this time. The assumption and expectation of happiness at this time appears to exacerbate the sadness. When others are seen enjoying holiday parties and events, gathering with family and friends, it hurts to be unable to inwardly feel the joy. For those already managing depression and struggling with symptoms of fatigue and irritability, additional expectations during the holidays can lead to increased feelings of depression.
Many studies have focused on people who identify themselves as happy and listening to what they say about what makes them happy. The results are amazingly similar across all groups of people. Time affluence, spending time with family and friends, practicing gratitude, being optimistic, living in the present, being physically active, and engaging in pleasurable activities all contribute to feelings of happiness. Research conducted on wellness and happiness indicate that genes, circumstances, attitudes and behaviors are factors that impact one’s level of happiness.
Now we don’t have much control over genes or circumstances, but attitudes and behaviors we do. Since we can’t change genes, we typically think that if we can change our circumstances, we will be happy. We focus on things like higher income, a better job, friendlier people in our lives, etc. However, research on happiness says only 10 percent of happiness is determined by circumstances. While genes do determine a considerable part of our happiness, attitudes and behaviors determine a much greater percentage.
An important factor of happiness is time affluence – the feeling one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful to reflect and to engage in leisure. Whereas time poverty is the feeling one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked and behind. Increasing time affluence is hard work. In our hurry-up world today people often ignore time affluence and place greater value and energy on circumstances such as income, prestige, and possessions.
When we begin to value time as much as our circumstances, this attitude and behavior can add much to our happiness. Time is not flexible. We can’t add more time nor subtract it. It is always the same for everyone.
Let us adopt those attitudes and behaviors that increase time affluence and engage in the activities that happy people say make them happy. One way to start is to record the number of hours devoted to every activity during a typical week. At the end of the week, indicate how much pleasure and meaning you derived from each activity and whether you prefer to do that activity more or less.
This can help you re-prioritize so you can focus on what’s important and meaningful to you.
Anita P. Jackson, emeritus professor at Kent State University, is a Zanesville resident and a clinical counselor.
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