In Defence of Christmas: A Positive Psychology Perspective

In Defence of Christmas: A Positive Psychology Perspective

The route to TSPP has been a visual feast lately, thanks to Hitachi and their ornamental lights strewn all over Orchard Road. Like us folks at TSPP, you too might have noticed that the malls are crawling with Christmas shoppers.

Christmas is commonly celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike, but it has drawn its fair share of flak for being nothing more than a highly commercialised holiday that, ironically, gives rise to feelings of competitiveness and inadequacy. After all, Christmas is a time of gatherings, when we meet up with our rivals acquaintances and compete compare share with each other what we have been up to in the past year.

Christmas joy? That’s cute, kid.

Before we allow our feelings of jealousy to condemn the festivities, it’s worth a try celebrating the season for what it actually represents in our modern age – sharing joy with our loved ones.

Appreciating Christmas for what it is

We Singaporeans like keeping ourselves busy, and some relationships – be it with family or friends – inadvertently take a back seat amidst our pursuit of achievement.

As Christmas draws near, the general mood lightens up and we unconsciously reach an unspoken consensus to catch a breather. Hectic schedules and diet plans are thrown out of the window in favour of year-end parties with friends who we, at some point back in the day, used to be so close to. Finally being able to find a common time to meet up is something to celebrate isn’t it?

We are also one of the highest Christmas gift-spenders in the region, according to a survey done by Groupon last month, spending an average of $478 in total each season. Presents encapsulate our appreciation towards loved ones and vice versa. It’s understandable to feel disappointed when you receive something that isn’t what you hoped for, but don’t let that ruin a good thing! All the thought, effort and money that go into it is well worth feeling thankful for!

As well as for what it’s not

Christmas naysayers have a point though; large gatherings can also be breeding ground for jealousy and resentment, since we tend to compare ourselves with others. You might be familiar with frenemies coming up to you and asking “How’s it going?” as a prelude to broadcasting their good fortune. Even truly good pals can trigger jealousy when you see how far they’ve come.

Oh, I just snagged 6 Grammy awards. How ’bout you?

The key is to recognise negative thoughts – jealousy, anger, even spite – as they come so that you act or react in the most effective and gracious way. Once you are mindful of such thoughts, you become more conscious of their underlying emotions, how you are behaving, and whether you should be acting any different. Seeing the situation from a third person’s point of view will help you objectivise unpleasant emotions as just that, without passing judgement, making those emotions easier to let go.

If someone is deliberately making you feel lousy by comparing their fabulous life to yours, remaining resilient to their mean-spirited behaviour will disappoint them. You might feel like life is unfair, but that’s what we expect from life; everyone is given a different set of obstacles and opportunities, but in the long run, what matters is that you make the most of what you have. It also helps to adopt the mindset of a survivor instead of a victim since the perception of an internal locus of control – as opposed to externalities such as fate and luck – is empowering.

In fact, some of the things people boast about might not be much to get envious over, if you think about it thoroughly. Instead of a true sense of satisfaction with life, some people seek solace and pride in the material goods they acquire, feeding off others’ envy. Just remember that keeping up with the Joneses will not make us happier than if we lead fulfilling lives. As Theodore Roosevelt put it, comparison is the thief of joy.

Love it or leave it

Minor but upsetting events such as sarcasm can be annoying, but you can take the high road and see these situations as your Positive Psychology training ground.

If being mindful, resilient, meaning-oriented person doesn’t help you beat the holiday stress, ditch the source! Parties are supposed to be fun, not stressful! You can either make an excuse to exit the next deprecating conversation or – if things aren’t going to well for you at the moment and you’re unwilling to share – use the holidays as an opportunity to go on a vacation. Making a choice to do things that are good for your soul is better than doing what you think you “should”, then stewing in toxicity afterwards!

On this note, all of us at TSPP wish you a blessed Christmas and a fantastic new year!