December 16, 2019

We’re in the middle of the holidays. Here's how to make it through them in good spirits.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Parties, school programs and family commitments are part of the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, but a Purdue University social scientist has some tips on how people can make it through with their holiday spirit intact.

Louis Tay, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Psychological Sciences, specializes in well-being and happiness. Tay says if you are planning for a perfect holiday season, you also should prepare yourself for when some things are less than perfect.

louis-tay Louis Tay, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Psychological Sciences  (Purdue University photo) Download image

Here are some ways to maintain your well-being and make it a good holiday.

  • Positively frame holiday events and gatherings: People should acknowledge from the start that it could be a stressful and busy time, but there are ways to positively frame the holidays.

“Rather than dreading it, you could frame it as, ‘These are precious moments we can spend together. How many times do we get to do this together?’” Tay says.

  • Ask for assistance: One significant source of stress is hosting guests or parties. “One way to overcome this might be to involve others in helping with preparations. You may not be obligating them. People like to know they can contribute and volunteering their help may help them feel more engaged in the event,” Tay says.
  • Presence over presents: Throughout his time researching happiness and well-being, Tay points out that positive experiences are more valuable for happiness than material goods. Further, we are “humans are wired with a deep need to be relational.” Spending quality time with others can be much more meaningful for well-being than receiving large presents. Tay notes, “Of course, we can also give presents that will promote time together, such as vacations, board games, and the like.”
  • Slow down: Although there are many things we can do over the holidays, Tay encourages scheduling space to help you wind down and decompress.

“We often try to cram so many activities into the holidays,” he says. “It is important to remember that being rested is foundational for well-being too. Take time to slow down: find time to rest, practice mindfulness, or just enjoy a good book.”

  • Conversation starters: Stress and conflicts can come about from discussing controversial topics during get-togethers. Seek to withhold judgment and be an active listener. “People often want to be heard and express their feelings,” he says. “You could also direct the conversation by asking reflective questions such as, ‘What is giving new purpose and meaning in your life so far? What has the year taught you? Is there something you can been thankful for this year?’”

Tay says these reflective questions can be taught to children as well. “As parents, we can set an example of sharing what we have been thankful for over the year,” he says. This helps children develop gratitude rather than entitlement.

  • Tips for business owners and their employees: Tay, who has a research company called ExpiWell (formerly Expimetrics) and has worked with various businesses and organizations to capture real-time experiences and promote well-being, says there are ways to help employees and customers during the holidays. Business owners can work with their employees to be psychologically prepared to deal with customers who are in a wide variety of moods. “Even small things help,” says Tay, such as displaying a smile, keeping calm, or acknowledging the source of a frustration.

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Source: Louis Tay. For interviews, please contact Matthew Oates at oatesw@purdue.edu or @mo_oates

 

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