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Merry Christmas: Happiness is not about gifts.

December 24, 2012

From the NYT.  Roko Belic is a film director. His latest film, “Happy,” is a global exploration of the true causes of happiness.

Most holidays this time of year have, at their core, a sacred significance that includes appreciating loved ones and finding meaning in one’s life. This is wonderful for happiness because gratitude, good relationships and a meaningful life do make us happy.

Fretting over what to buy, racing around to buy it and spending more money than we should are all detrimental to happiness.

But we are inundated with advertising and peer pressure that distracts us from these goals and convinces us to prioritize other things – things to buy. And it’s no wonder that the ads are effective. They’re made by some of the most creative and talented people in the world, featuring some of the most attractive people we’ll ever see.

Whether it’s electronic gadgets that promise to connect us to people or underwear that will lure the perfect mate, advertising uses what is true, that positive relationships are hugely important for happiness, to convince us of something that is usually not true, that buying their product will lead us to find love.

We really want to do right by others, to show our love by giving the best gifts ever. As we prepare for the holidays, however, we often spend more time fretting over what to buy, racing around to buy it and spending more money than we should – all detrimental to happiness. And when we show up with a basket load of presents to a holiday gathering, we ourselves create pressure for those around us to step it up.

People who prioritize compassion and helping others are more likely to be happy than people who prioritize material possessions. How many of us, however, are more likely to spend a pre-holiday weekend helping others than we are shopping for presents?

There’s a deal-breaker for happiness that’s worth mentioning. It’s focusing on the negative. So rather than wonder “Why aren’t we happier during the holidays?” we would be better off wondering “What do we have to be happy about during the holidays?” The good news is that most of us already have the things that will make us happy: relationships to nurture, the ability to be kind, and something to be grateful for.


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