We can all agree that 2020 has been a tough year — so if you're looking to inject a bit of joy into your life right now, allow us to make the case for setting up your Christmas tree and lights ASAP: Celebrating early might make you happier.
According to experts, stores that stock holiday decor in the fall have the right idea. The secret is a technique psychologists call savoring, a way to fully absorb life's special moments. In other words, thinking about and planning a holiday extends its bliss beyond a few short weeks. One study found that anticipation in the weeks before a vacation is a big part of the happiness the vacation brings — and it works the same way with holidays.
"In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad. "Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement!"
Another perk of decorating for the holidays on the earlier side? It could help bring some joy to the people in your neighborhood and help you make some new friends, too. The Journal of Environmental Psychology reports that decorating your home for the holidays tells your neighbors that you're accessible and that people perceive those who put up holiday decorations to be friendlier. (Earlier this year, people across the U.S. started putting their Christmas lights back up as a sign of hope amid the coronavirus pandemic.)
Finally, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't, Amy Morin, also told Unilad that the holidays trigger nostalgia, which can provide some uplifting positivity, too. "Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods."
Now that you're fully convinced to put this theory to the test by decking the halls the day after Halloween, here are a few more expert tricks to try the "savoring" technique throughout the holiday season this year:
•Have an intermission. Try taking a break in the middle of gift giving, or waiting an hour before serving dessert at your holiday feast. Even a brief hiatus from something enjoyable can reset your pleasure level.
•Create mini traditions. Engaging in a short ritual before doing something you like can make your experience even better. Study subjects told to unwrap and eat a chocolate bar in a specific step-by-step style savored it much more. Find ways to turn tree decorating into a fun routine.
•Take a photo...in your head. If you snap a mental picture of an unexpected delight, like your kid’s face as she bites into a gingerbread cookie, you can replay those images in your mind later and instantly rekindle the positive emotions.
•Give thanks freely and often. Research suggests that the act of saying thank you can actually increase our own happiness by making us more aware of positive feelings.
•Treat joy as if it’s finite. The awareness of an ending encourages us to seize the moment while it lasts. Acknowledging that your tree will come down soon and your extended family will go home (Sob! But also, phew!) can help you treasure all of it even more.
Sources: Fred Bryant, Ph.D., author of the book Savoring; Jordi Quoidbach, Ph.D. a professor at Esade Business School in Barcelona, who has studied savoring extensively; Jeffrey Froh, Psy.D., author of Making Grateful Kids.
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