Christmas Competition or How I Learned Not to Chase Happiness

Today’s Western culture and especially marketing strategies often make us believe that there is a connection between things, which is not necessary true. They make us believe, for instance, that there is a connection between dressing fancy and being successful in our careers or dressing fancy and being successful in our relationships (so that they sell more clothes), a connection between lounge or backyard furniture and family/friends gatherings and so on. One of these connections that are popularized in our culture is a connection between Christmas and Happiness. It is assumed that to feel happy on Christmas, I needed to have the most beautiful wrapping paper for my gifts, the cards with the most sparkles, the Christmas tree decorations with the most colours, and so on. Many movies, including Lampoon’s National Vacation capture how ridiculous is our struggle to make everyone gather and get extremely happy together, and how untrue it is.

However, I didn’t learn anything from the movies. I always want to be inspired and get “in the mood” so that the season feels brighter and happier. So I tried really hard to be happy. Around Christmas time, I would walk around to look at Christmas lights, plan the most exclusive Pinterest-worthy meals on Instagram-worthy table set up, I would actively, even aggressively look for ways to make my holidays as Christmassy as they can be. I would make sure I have the most beautiful Christmas tree by constantly decorating and re-decorating it, adding more lights, more toys, more sparkles. If I turn on the TV and there was some kind of Christmas-related movie, I will make sure to watch it. If I was doing something (any task at home) in the month of December, nothing but Christmas or New Years-related movies must be played on TV. If TV was off, the music played should have been Christmassy or at least party music to remind us how EXTREMELY HAPPY we are.

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If we would go out, we would need to incorporate some holiday element to it. So guess what, by the time Christmas arrived, I was tired of celebrating. It did not feel like it was a holiday because I was so aggressively preparing for it. I expected it to be 100 times more special because I had a new dress, new makeup and new goals ready for it. I had a perfect gift wrapping paper, perfect cookies, perfect dishes planned, even a Santa costume for my cat. I was simply trying too hard. After all, Christmas was another day on a calendar marked as a holiday so we won’t have to go to work to spend time with our families. That’s what Christmas is really about. It is not about being happy because it is Christmas, but about taking the time to appreciate what we have and believing in magic. Not just that, it is also about creating magic and helping others believe in it. Whether is it a big or small good deed, it is somehow appreciated more during Christmas season. In the month of December, people volunteer more, donate more, and help each other more. Even though one may rightfully argue that people should help each other all 12 months a year, not one, it is better than not helping at all. Going back to the point, here is something that I learned:

  • You can’t force happiness. The more aggressively you look for it, the lower are the chances for being happy. It is so because, first of all, you compare “expected” happiness levels to the ones you usually have, and the difference makes you unhappy.
  • We often miss the opportunity for feeling happiness because we are so busy looking for it.
  • We assume there are conditions for happiness, like a perfect Instagram-worthy Christmas tree, perfect makeup/dress, and perfect and good looking meals or making sure every relative/friend made it to the party that we are hosting. It is these very conditions that are, in fact, subtracting rather than adding to our happiness. The world is not perfect and it is rare that everything goes perfectly as planned, so by making our happiness depend on it, we deny ourselves a chance to actually be happy.
  • Finally, I also learned that more often than not, happiness is a process, not a destination. That is why, I enjoy and notice more while doing something – I would enjoy how beautiful the falling snowflakes are while walking to the grocery store, or how fresh the cookies smell while baking them.
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