Happier Holidays

If you have mixed feelings about the holiday season, you are not alone: The American Psychological Association has found that for most people, holidays bring up strong emotions, both positive and negative. Though many people look forward to the holidays, a majority of Americans also report feeling very stressed about not having enough time or money and pressures surrounding gift-giving during the season.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Studies show when people have three things–financial control, strong relationships, and a sense of purpose–they are much happier. Here are some ways to boost the “Golden Triangle” of happiness for the holiday season this year.

Financial control may be a challenge with the pressures of gift-giving and other expenses during the holidays. Giving generously isn’t always about lavish spending, and avoiding debt during the holiday season can help everyone feel happier. Gifts of time, teaching or learning something, or offering new experiences can be more meaningful than material objects.

Strong relationships, from a committed family and close friends to helpful neighbors and other community members are important to happiness. But for many people, the holidays may highlight deficits in relationships, from difficult–or absent–family members to feeling isolated from a larger community. During the holidays, focusing on the relationships you can count on–and not those you wish you had–can help us feel happier.

A sense of purpose is worth considering during the holiday season. What are your intentions for the holidays? How do you need to show up for yourself and others to make that happen? Identifying a purpose that’s more important than buying this year’s popular toy or throwing the most elaborate dinner can help us become happier.

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