Happiness expert, Tamara Lechner, believes that traditions around the holidays can boost happiness by strengthening social connections and helping give people a sense of belonging.
According to Lechner, the following rituals allow you to feel that you are part of something bigger.
According to Christine Carter, senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center and author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, the best traditions are the ones that involve giving back—when you give, you get. Studies have shown that giving time or money boosts your feelings of happiness and connection.
Holidays are filled with tastes that you only enjoy only once or twice each year. Cooking during the holidays is different than everyday cooking. It is an activity you often do in collaboration with friends and family. Meals become a labor of love. Deep conversations happen while peeling potatoes and decorating shortbread. The smells and tastes can bring a sense of “home” no matter where you are. Even the post-meal cleanup feels more fun when you do it in a group.
This festive time of year comes with seasonal songs. These range from timeless hymns, holiday hits, and those funny songs you sang in your grade school choir. The physiological benefits of singing include stress reduction, improved immunity, and reduced muscle tension. It’s also pretty powerful at combating depression. Singing or listening to seasonal music fosters connection to your past, to those with whom shared your past and with the others singing with you in the present moment.
Seeing the decorations around your home change from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s is a happiness booster. These objects are tied to specific memories from your past. If the memories are wonderful, by replaying them in your mind with gratitude you increase their power of positivity. Reflecting fondly on the past activates the same area of your brain as the original joy—like an instant reply. If the memories are tense or less positive you have the opportunity to relegate them to your past and move forward using humor, forgiveness, and gratitude that you are no longer in this past.
5. Outdoor Activities
Humans can tend toward hibernation in the fall and winter seasons. Shortened days can lead to less time to engage in outdoor activities. Holiday traditions like ice skating, hiking, and even raking leaves get you back outside. The fresh air and sunlight are good for your body and the time with others is good for your soul. Even if “the weather outside is frightful,” the desire to continue a tradition is like positive peer pressure to get you outside and active.
You can read the full article, Why Holiday Rituals Can Boost Your Happiness, on Chopra.com.