Christmas—Make it a Merry One!
Christmas is the celebration of love, giving & receiving and it awakens in most people the longing for security and loving relationships. Accordingly, our conscious and subconscious expectations for the holidays are high.
However, the reality is less rosy for many people: the telephone counselling service (emergency number 142) is particularly busy during the holidays. Loneliness, disappointment and relationship problems often show up more clearly during this time and addiction problems occur more frequently.
In the "quiet time" of the year, our longings and deep human needs for closeness, for being seen and understood become particularly loud, but often go unheard and are then compensated on the material level with things, material gifts or with actions of substitution such as negative addictive behaviours. The results are mountains of rubbish, conflicts and a guilty conscience instead of harmony and the desired pleasant feelings.
According to the World Happiness Report 2019, this alarming trend is led by the US: In chapter 7, Jeffrey D.Sachs describes the decline of American well-being in the context of a society with mass dependency. Among the multitude of factors are eating disorders and increasing addiction rates including drugs & alcohol, food & obesity and internet usage.
I’d like to go into the latter in more detail: digital media on the one hand has a direct influence on our well-being: for example through cyberbullying or the upward social comparison (one's own life seems inferior to that of one's friends or idols)—both significant risk factors for depression. Furthermore, digital media can have an indirect negative effect, because spending more time on a mobile phone or computer often means less time for scientifically proven happiness factors like sleep and social interaction.
The figure below clearly shows this: the time spent by young people on the Internet has risen rapidly, especially since 2012, due to the widespread use of smart phones. At the same time, sleep, interpersonal relationships and thus the general feeling of happiness fall by the wayside.
WorldHappinessReport 2019 (Fig. 5.4)
The good news is that Austria ranks among the 10 happiest countries in the world according to the World Happiness Report (10th out of 156)— people in my home therefore have every reason to see the "glass half full". We should, however, take global developments seriously, observe warning signals from ourselves, our children and friends and consciously take countermeasures.
Especially with regard to smartphones, we should inform ourselves about possible health risks and make up our own "user guide": how often do I really need my phone, how can I use it more consciously, be a role-model and teach my children to responsibly use digital medias in general? Here are some suggestions:
Find out about your own digital habits.
(Link to self-test for teenagers: see footnote)
If it's already a problem, ask yourself the question: What is the need behind my addiction? How can I better meet the need?*
Strengthen your own self-esteem, develop self-love & compassion.*
Get back control over your own time: self-observation (online alarm clock, computer diary, Internet time outs), setting priorities, time management.*
Give priority to "offline" goals and activities, especially community-building ones (family outings, playing games, cooking & baking together, sports and other outdoor activities, clubs & volunteer work...)
Christmas: Giving experiences instead of electronics
* Coaching and consulting is particularly useful and helpful in these areas.
Actively doing something for our happiness is of course very easy at Christmas:
To give voluntarily, generously and from the heart!
There are at least 5 scientifically proven reasons for this:
Giving makes us feel happy: altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain which cause positive feelings ("helper high").
Giving is good for our health: Studies show that volunteering & helping others can prolong life, positively impact chronic diseases and lower blood pressure.
Giving promotes cooperation and social connection: “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection…the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.” (John Cacioppo)
Giving is contagious: Researchers have found that a person who behaves generously encourages recipients and observers to later behave generously toward other people themselves—altruism can spread three degrees and positively affect dozens or even hundreds of people.
Giving evokes gratitude: Research has shown that gratitude is an essential part of happiness, health and social bonds; Barbara Frederickson, a leading happiness researcher, finds the cultivation of gratitude in everyday life as one of the keys to increasing personal happiness.
We all feel better in the presence of generous, loving and grateful people— let us live out for ourselves what we want from others! This SunCoaching meditation helps us to be grateful and happy—not just at Christmas!
MEDITATION: Grateful Joy
Take 5 minutes, breathe consciously and deeply, and think of someone or something for which you are grateful (there may be several people, things or circumstances—even very simple things like a safe roof over your head or clean drinking water...) and consciously feel this feeling of gratitude within you, breathe deeply, let this gratitude and the inner smile that it evokes fill you completely and enjoy this pleasant feeling of joy—your inner "sun". Finally thank yourself (body, mind & soul) for everything you do for yourself and others and go on through your day with the good feeling and this smile :-)