I’m sitting in a café in Barcelona surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas (this picture is my current view). I don’t know about you, but the Christmas holidays always push my buttons. I have good memories and bad memories of holidays gone by, but it’s always the bad ones that stick out in my mind. For me and most people the pull of the negative is simply stronger than the positive (that tendency is so powerful it has it’s own name – more on that later).
Regardless of what the holidays have been for you, I want to help you with what will be. There are simple things you can focus on this holiday season, and into the New Year, that will help you to be filled with more joy, peace, gratitude, hope and all the other warm, fuzzy words that describe who you want to be and what you want to feel. This is for me too. One of the reasons for our move to Europe this year is so my family and I could break the cycle of negativity and excess comfort we were experiencing and cultivate more of those “warm and fuzzy” traits in our lives.
I would like to describe our adventure through something called Well-Being Theory. Well-being theory is the idea that you and I can consistently sustain the kind of life we desire. Yes, it is about being happy, but I would say it goes way beyond simple happiness. It’s more about the Jewish word, ‘shalom‘ which is about completeness – prosperity, tranquility, contentment deep relationships and peace with God. There are 5 elements to Well-Being Theory. Today, as we look toward the holidays, I’m focusing on the 1st element. (We’ll get to the other 4 over the next 7 days – just in time for Christmas!)
The first ‘element’ is Positive Emotion. Positive emotions are all about human flourishing. What are we doing when we are at our best and our most fulfilled (happy or shalom)? Positive emotions consist of joy, interest, contentment, love. They are the antithesis to emotions such as anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration and despair. Creating more positive emotions in your life means you will be more fulfilled and, in turn, have more of the types of things you desire – deeper relationships, more connection, more hope about your present and future, etc. The difficulty is that you must have 3 positive emotions to cancel every negative emotion – this tendency is called “negative bias.” Negative thoughts and actions are 3 times more powerful than positive thought or actions. We are already behind the curve on this, which is why it is so important to be mindful and conscious of the positivity and negativity we are bringing in to our lives. Do not wander aimlessly in your thoughts and words and then wonder why you are feeling so terrible about the outlook you have on life. Be proactive by paying attention to your triggers.
Think about what kinds of things bring you positive emotions? Is it exercise? Reading a book? Going to a specific park? Travelling? Being with certain people? Playing classical music? Looking at art pieces by Rembrandt? What are your triggers? The key is to find those triggers and create more opportunities for you to engage them on a daily basis.
Christmas is great for me to find these triggers because I love Christmas music. So I play it more. I also love Christmas cookies but I have to be careful how many I eat! 🙂 The scents of Christmas are important to me as well: cinnamon, freshly baked pies, the smell of a Christmas tree, and gingerbread lattes. I think you get my point here. Be mindful of what your triggers are and make sure they are present in your life every single day.
So here’s what you do: (1) Be conscious of how many positive emotions you are sowing into your life. (2) Make a list of what kinds of things give you positive emotions. Pinpoint your triggers and be specific. (3) Create a plan to make sure those things are present in your life every single day. Make it a point to do this starting TODAY and you will have the most joy-filled Christmas you have had in years. Merry Christmas everyone!