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3 Secrets to Happiness This Holiday Season

Expectations and stress seem to increase over the holidays, especially in the weeks leading up to them. We need to make the perfect meals, wear the perfect clothes and, of course, get the perfect gifts. But while it is easy to fall into the trap of striving for perfection, true happiness comes from some surprising places that are wonderfully imperfect. These never-talked-about holiday strategies for happiness are based on the research from our books Broadcasting Happiness and Before Happiness, and we have even tested them in our home. They can help you de-stress and keep your priorities in order so you’re not only happier this holiday season but better at spreading that joy, too.

1. Eat a whole pumpkin pie

We are planning on eating a whole pumpkin pie each over the holidays. When writing your to-do list, include items you may have already accomplished or are guaranteed to tackle. If you know you are definitely going to eat a whole pie or stock the wine fridge ahead of a big celebration at your house, put those on your list as items to check off.
As featured in Before Happiness, making a to-do list that includes easy wins becomes motivational fuel for your brain. A series of studies from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business found that if the brain perceives it is closer to the finish line, it works harder and faster, which makes you better prepared to accomplish more.

2. Make 'em cry

Make a list of family and friends you’d like to bring to tears, and then each day write one person a handwritten note to make it happen. Taking just five minutes, tell them why you are grateful for them and how they have made your life happier over the past year. Be specific. This is the perfect way to meaningfully touch their hearts and spread love to those you care about most. Additionally, this dose of conscious gratitude is good for you. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that writing a gratitude letter and delivering it in person caused the giver’s happiness levels to jump dramatically and last for up to a month.

3. Get Santa's greatest hits

Santa doesn’t reinvent the wheel each year. He has his greatest hits and sticks with them. In order to make this year’s holiday prep easier on you, ask yourself what you did last year that went really well, and build upon those successes. If your eggnog recipe was the rage, stick with it. If you found gift bags easier and prettier than wrapping presents with paper, go with what you know. Understanding our strengths and how to leverage them is central to positive psychology. It’s the key to achieving more in less time with less work. For instance, your zest can bring out others’ excitement and sense of fun, while your perseverance allows you to stay focused while preparing a complicated dish.
Since people love traditions, they will come to know what they can expect from you each year. (Another eggnog, please!) From our family to yours, we wish you very happy holidays.

SHAWN ACHOR is the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. After he spent 12 years at Harvard University, Shawn traveled to more than 50 countries, bringing positive psychology to schools and companies. He is co-founder of the happiness research and consulting group Goodthink Inc.
MICHELLE GIELAN is an expert on the science of positive communication and how to use it to fuel success. She holds a master’s degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and is co-founder of the happiness research and consulting group Goodthink Inc. Her first book is called Broadcasting Happiness.



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