Holidays make us happier and bring us together, so it’s likely that most of us would like to be able to sustain the holiday spirit. And while the holiday season may have a short-lived burst of joy and cheerfulness, there are actually effective strategies that we can use to maintain this uplifting holiday spirit throughout the whole year. Yes, we still can keep the positive feeling of the holiday season alive in our daily lives.
The holiday season has a profound impact on our mood and emotions, largely influenced by the surge of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward system. Increased dopamine creates a significant improvement in mood for many people. Social interactions, such as when family and friends come together, are known to release dopamine and enhance feelings of happiness and connectedness. And even after the event has passed, looking back at positive memories can contribute to an improved mood.
Did you know that Christmas decorations and lights also have an effect on happiness? The bright lights and colorful decorations can stimulate the senses in a way that uplifts our mood. In addition, Christmas music and baking, especially with strong spices, can trigger happy memories. Giving each other gifts reminds us of gratitude too, and just the act of giving and receiving gifts can be a source of joy and satisfaction and reinforce positive social bonds. Maybe even helping others by taking part in some church or charitable activity during the holidays can create a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Changing our daily routine and finding time for ourselves, and hopefully for the people around us that we care about, gives us a chance for relaxation and rejuvenation. Also, we should not forget that shopping and buying gifts for others or for ourselves can make us feel good.
With all of this it’s easy to see that the holiday “spirit” is actually a real thing. The surges in dopamine help regulate mood, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. One of the reasons why we love to consume sugary and highly processed foods is actually because they trigger the release of a large amount of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is released by the hypothalamus in the brain and also plays an important role in controlling memory, sleep, movement and concentration.
Ultimately, the holidays will pass and we need to get back to our busy life, pay our credit cards, try to keep up with our New Year’s resolutions and so on. We should not forget the things that made us happy over the holidays, and we can remember to stay connected with our family and friends and show them how much we care about them as often as we can. We can actually keep the essence of the holiday spirit throughout the whole year. Connection, gratitude and joy can be a part of our daily life, not just a temporary experience. By looking at what makes us happier during the holidays, and carrying it over into our everyday lives, we can sustain the holiday spirit and its positive effects all year round.
Happy and healthy Holidays and New Year!
National Library of Medicine. “The Role of Dopamine and Its Dysfunction as a Consequence of Oxidative Stress”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684895/
Health Direct. “Dopamine”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dopamine
Cleveland Clinic. “Dopamine”. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22581-dopamine