Happy Christmas? Here’s 10 ways for it to make you even happier.

In your active retirement, Christmas might be different from how it used to be. Maybe once your home served as the family’s ‘mothership’ where everyone gathered. But now you find your feet are under someone else’s table.

It will still be happy for sure. And be part of the story revealed by fact that men and women aged between 65 and 74 are happier than any other age group according to the National Office of Statistics.

Yet – you should love this – there are ways to make that happiness more intense and beneficial.

Of course, there are challenges to the level of happiness possible at Christmas. There’s the cost in terms of money, emotional energy and hard work. There’s the pressure of the expectations of others, not to mention those we put on ourselves. And stress is heightened by the seemingly never-ending torrent of advertising, which looks charming but actually yells ‘Spend!’

But if we can fight our way through all the commercialism and stress, there’s something very positive to be gained – well worth the time, expense and gravy on the carpet.

Primarily there’s the joy of this seasonal reminder of God stepping into our world; a tiny vulnerable bundle of life at the mercy of humankind. ‘He who was rich but became poor, so that we who are poor could become rich.’ as St Paul wrote.

Yet there’s something else too – as revealed by research from around the world. Because there’s evidence that those who celebrate something in the right way are generally even happier than those who don’t.

What’s that ‘right way’?

Author and social psychologist Fred Bryant believes that it’s all about ‘savouring the good stuff’. By relishing and celebrating our experiences of happiness – including those that Christmas brings, we can build a resilience that helps us manage the tensions and challenges the whole occasion can cause.

Bryant has been called the father of research on ‘savouring’ – the experience of being mindfully engaged and aware of our feelings during positive events. Doing so can create and increase happiness in the short and long run.

His work, along with that of others, identifies a myriad of benefits that come from savouring things like family holiday celebrations. These include stronger relationships, better mental and physical health, and being more able to solve problems creatively.

Using data from over 20,000 people, Matthew Killingsworth, another happiness researcher, identified happiness levels felt at randomly selected moments during daily life. And it turned out that people are happier than usual at times like Christmas.

He recommends ten ways to ‘savour’ these moments, to put them to work for our benefit. No matter how many Christmases you have under your belt, they’re all worth trying.

  1. Share your good feelings with others. Treat positive events like positive news. Tell someone when you feel particularly thankful.
  2. Take a mental photograph. Spend a moment being aware of things you want to remember later that have brought you pleasure.
  3. Pat yourself on the back. Acknowledge the blessings resulting from all your hard work and smart planning.
  4. Focus on your senses. Take time to concentrate on the sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and sights involved with what you are enjoying. One great way is simply to linger over meals.
  5. Be expressive. Demonstrate excitement when something good is happening – it reinforces the experience.
  6. Contrast it to the opposite outcome. Think what it would have been like if this had not happened.
  7. Get caught up in the experience. Focus and don’t let the moment pass, or be distracted from it. Children are much better than adults at this.
  8. Be thankful. Express your gratitude to those providing these experiences to savour. And pause to express thanks before you eat – to the cook and to God!
  9. Don’t be negative. When things go wrong or don’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, still find something positive in it all.
  10. Remember that time is fleeting. Be determined to relish the moments that bring you pleasure, knowing they pass more swiftly than we might wish.

Research shows that all these actions lead to greater feelings of happiness and satisfaction. And they don’t only apply to Christmas and other happy events. They will also deepen our appreciation for all that God has done for us. So give them a try.

Do you have a way to enhance your experiences of happiness? Please share it here or on our AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

You can share this blog with others by using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife