Science Says Celebrating Holidays Could Make You Happier
Holidays are a time to celebrate. While it may be stressful to bake that extra batch of cookies for the bake sale, cart the family around to the neighbors’ holiday parties, and find the perfect gift for the person on your list who has everything, those who celebrate something are generally happier than those who don’t celebrate anything.
People from the happiest places in the world find ways to actively express their gratitude and celebrate life. In Mexico, Dan Buettner met famously happy columnist and humorist Armando Fuentes Aguirre (known as El Catón by his friends) who believes his country’s high happiness scores may be connected to their culture of celebration. “We celebrate everything. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Godfather’s Day…Something every week. We invent reasons together,” Fuentes said.
According to author and social psychologist Fred Bryant, when we stop to savor the good stuff, we build resilience which helps us to manage stress and the daily challenges that can cause it. His research, along with research from Vicotria University in New Zealand, savoring the little things, like family holiday celebrations, can lead to stronger relationships and improved mental and physical well-being.
We gather around the table for family meals, invite friends to join in Friendsgiving celebrations, and drive over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Christmas. We spend these celebratory days surrounded by our kin. We know from the longest-lived people in the world that those who put family first and socialize with their friends tend to live longer, happier lives. Matthew Killingsworth, a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar and happiness researcher, has collected data from over 20,000 people who report how happy they feel at randomly selected moments during daily life. He noted that the data reveals people are actually happier than usual on holidays. Killingsworth says, “Spending time with our friends and family turns out to be a robustly positive predictor of our happiness.”
“Spending time with our friends and family turns out to be a robustly positive predictor of our happiness.”
What You Say Can Make You Happier
Recent research published in PLOS ONE analyzed language patterns of volunteers on social media and found people who use words such as “weekend,” “coffee,” “holiday,” and “delicious,” score high for positive emotions. These are people who enjoy getting outside, celebrating holidays, and hanging out with their friends.
Trimmed for Happiness
We know that savoring the little things and having gratitude can lead to greater overall well-being. So celebrating for longer may extend those positive feelings. A study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that holiday decorations tell neighbors you’re accessible and friendly, open to socializing and making new friends.
Even if celebrating major holidays isn’t your thing, celebrating life’s simple pleasures is a recipe for happiness.
“Drink without getting drunk
Love without suffering jealousy
Eat without overindulging
And once in a while, with great discretion, misbehave.”
—Armando Fuentes Aguirre, El Catón