Thanksgiving is almost here, which means the holiday season is just around the corner. Everyone will have a different response to what makes the holidays special, but the common denominator for happiness, this time of year, is connection. Do you know anyone that cooks a complete turkey dinner, or creates holiday magic just for his or her own benefit? Highly doubtful. The joy surrounding our celebrations comes from sharing the experience with family and friends. Happy people know this and cultivate these relationships throughout the year.
Positive Psychology has found a direct relationship between the quality of our relationships and our happiness. (Note the word quality, not quantity; Facebook friends do not count. ☺ ) We are social creatures by nature and the bonds we create with each other provide numerous benefits for our physical and mental health.
The sense of well being experienced from being a part of a caring group is good for our health. It raises the “feel good” endorphin levels and reduces the stressful cortisol levels in our brains. It lowers stress-related health problems, lowers the risk of mental illness and speeds up recovery time from infirmities. It’s no wonder that Dan Buettner, in his book, The Blue Zones, Lessons For Living Longer From The People Who’ve Lived The Longest, found strong social connections among all of the centenarians he interviewed.
Happiness derived from our connections seems to be contagious. In their book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Dr. Nicholas Christakis and Dr. James H. Fowler reveal that we are connected to each other by three degrees of influence. Simply stated, our happiness can influence our friends’ happiness and our friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness. The ripple effect of all this bliss benefits us as individuals and as a society.
Perhaps most interesting is the lasting effects of happiness derived from our relationships with one another. Studies have shown that buying things will create an immediate, but short-lived happiness spike. Happiness resulting from an experience with family or friends results in deeper, longer-lasting satisfaction levels. Most of us already know this to be true. This is probably why, on Monday morning, we ask each other what we did this weekend and not what we bought this weekend.
As we begin the holiday season of 2014, enjoy the food and festivities, appreciate the glitter and the gifts, but savor the people that matter the most. The memories shared with the people we love and cherish is what really makes the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year”.
Wishing you and your family a VERY happy Thanksgiving!
Be you. No apologies.