The Magic of Christmas – Discover the secret of wellbeing

I have a warm cup of tea in one hand… cozy socks wrapped around my feet… a candle burning in the background… and If I wasn’t busy writing right at this moment, I would probably be watching a classic Christmas movie, to really bring home the fact that December has arrived.

There’s NO denying; I’m losing myself completely and wholeheartedly to the joy, traditions and nostalgia of Christmas.

I don’t know what it is about December and Christmas that makes me go that extra mile to pamper myself and others, enjoy the present moment and make every day more magical…

Maybe it’s the power of tradition… The memory of past Decembers… Or maybe it’s because I (on some unconscious level) recognize a collective acceptance in society, that “allows” me to go that extra mile, without feeling out of place or extreme?

Whatever it might be, I LOVE IT!

I love the fact that we take the time to be with loved-ones and with ourselves in a more loving and present way… We make an effort to spend time with the people we love… We decorate our homes, in ways that spark joy and make us happy… We cook amazing meals, cookies and treats, just for the joy of the tradition (and often eat it all in the company of loved-ones)… We find joy in giving to others and to ourselves – A symbolic gesture, a beautifully wrapped gift and we even donate time and give back to the community… We reminisce and tell stories of the past and dream about the future… while we still remember to live in the present moment, cherishing every day of December.

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The essence of Christmas

When I take a moment, and reflect on the essence of Christmas, one clear theme comes to mind… LOVE! The increased expression of love for the people in your life, the love for the present moment and the enhanced love you show towards yourself.

Because LOVE is a big part of my work and research in the field of happiness, it makes me wonder… What is it that ignites and inspires us to live in a more loving place during this time of year, compared to the rest of the year?

What if we could “bottle” some of that spirit, effort and love and reap some of the benefits of the Christmas spirit throughout the entire year? I, for one, would love to infuse the remainder of the year with some of the magic and love that I experience during Christmas. (Of cause in a transformed and tailored way, that fits the changing seasons.)

So, what lies behind this increased expression of joy, wellbeing and love during the holidays?

Human Psychology and Tradition

To answer this question, I need to dive into the human psychology and try to understand what makes people react the way we do.

According to research, the magic of Christmas and the increased sense of joy, wellbeing and love all comes down to tradition and habit.

Psychology shows that we, as humans, love predictability and stability; we love it so much that up to 93 percent of all our actions can be predicted ahead of time, according to a 2010 study from Northwestern. Apparently, traditions are necessary for our development and feelings of wellbeing.

 

Making a tradition

So, the secret behind why most of us feel amazing during Christmas, isn’t because of some magical fairy dust, but instead it seems to be because of tradition. But, what is tradition, how does it work and how do we create more of it?

“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyers’ wigs or military officers’ spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word “tradition” itself derives from the Latin word ‘tradere’, which literally means ‘to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping’. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose, whether that be political or cultural, over short periods of time.” – From Wikipedia

For a tradition to take form and retain its hold on us throughout the years, four key elements need to be present. 1. A strictly defined time and place; 2. A set of features that are repeated year after year (week after week or day after day); 3. another set of features that are different from year to year (week after week or day after day); and 4. a lot of symbols (or recognizable shapes or figures).

Take Christmas for instance; all four elements are highly present… Everything from the set date of Christmas eve, the Christmas dinner and unwrapping of presents, the changing festivities like markets and Christmas parties and of cause the symbol of the Christmas tree. All 4 symbols are present and very obvious.

Another important element in creating a tradition that sticks, is the sensory information that we connect with years prior. We tie a huge amount of meaning to memories of sensory information, that’s why we’re reminded of Christmas when we smell a turkey cooking, or we get excited when we smell the scent of a Christmas tree… smells remind us of old memories and feelings.

Our own traditions

Knowing this, is there a way to grab hold of this knowledge and somehow transfer it to other areas of life? I for one would love my increased love, wellbeing and attention – during December – to be more present throughout the entire year.

Maybe not in the same way as during Christmas, but other traditions that can sweeten our daily life… like a nighttime tradition (bubble bath, skincare routine and a good book), a weekly tradition of being in the moment with your close family (shutting of all electronics every Friday evening at 6pm, long conversation, playing games etc.) or it could be a monthly tradition of meeting up with close friends (cooking dinner, drinking wine and discussing life’s circumstances…)

We now know that the traditions that we have, are highly important and necessary for our development and wellbeing, so why not be more conscious about current traditions and maybe we could even open our minds to new traditions to enter our lives?

Do you have any traditions that you would love to introduce into your life? What would that tradition add to your life? Let me know… I’m curious to know your thoughts.

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