Don’t Fall For The Christmas Happiness Trap image

Don’t Fall For The Christmas Happiness Trap

Some of my absolute favourite movies are centered around the Christmas holiday season. You know, the ones that paint a picturesque image of what the holidays should look like — festive decorations, friends gathering around cosy fires, finding love under the mistletoe, bonding with loved ones, and giving gifts that really mean something.

Sure, there may be a few bumps in the road (like going home with your live-in girlfriend only to find out that she hasn’t come out to her toxic family), but in the end it turns out to be the Best Christmas Ever, complete with a happy ending. Except, in real life, that’s not usually how my holidays turn out — and I’m sure yours don’t, either.

As the end of the year draws close, the pressure to have a perfect Christmas holiday season tends to mount. “Everything around you, societally, is pushing you to be happy and to focus on happiness,” says Alfiee Breland-Noble, PhD, psychologist, author, and founder of mental health nonprofit the AAKOMA Project. The movies, the ads, the perfectly curated Instagram pictures of decorations, wrapped presents, and matching family jammies all fuel this idea of what we think the holidays should look like. When contrasted with our real-life experiences, we usually end up feeling disappointed, miserable, and frustrated long before we unwrap our first present.This year, we may be feeling an even bigger desire for a flawlessly festive Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. We’ve been through a tough 365 days that have included a global pandemic that is impossible to ignore right now. The Christmas holidays may feel like our one chance to end this year right, a beacon of light that will save us from the hardships of 2021. But this exact build-up can actually be detrimental to our mental health, setting us up for a serious letdown post-holiday season (or a major meltdown during it). Avoiding the Christmas happiness trap requires being intentional about managing our expectations, says Dr. Breland-Noble. Here, she lays out a game plan to end this season feeling refreshed, rather than drained. 

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