“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” – William James
For some, the holidays are all about joy, time spent with loved ones, and, of course, delicious meals. For others, however, this time of year brings about a more pessimistic state of mind. From the crush of holiday shoppers to an overabundance of family time, certain less-than-appealing factors can eclipse seasonal happiness. What causes some to embrace the cheer of the season and others to avoid it as much as possible?
Certain personality types are especially prone to pessimistic thinking, and the holidays are unlikely to warm their hearts or improve their attitudes. If anything, the excesses of the season may only serve to amplify their feelings of negativity. Rather than focusing on what is pleasant or positive, they may find themselves caught up in a cycle of negativity, often assuming the worst of everyone and everything.
Thinking personality types are particularly prone to believing they need to be “realistic” – which often translates into being pessimistic. While they may feel they’re insulating themselves from disappointment, Thinking types may actually be setting themselves up for the negative outcomes they were trying to avoid.
Being bitter about aspects of the holidays they find undesirable may seem noble to Thinking personalities, but it can cause them to miss out on what’s truly special about this time of year. Assuming that you’ll argue with Uncle Fred during your holiday gathering (because it happens every year!) isn’t just being realistic. It’s an act of preparation. Being put off by the materialism that this season has become known for is fine – but it’s not necessary to berate your sister who loves spending her time shopping for gifts.
Individuals with the Feeling personality trait are no less likely to suffer from bouts of negativity during the holidays. While they may find family time and holiday festivities enjoyable, they can still become overwhelmed and jaded during this season. Expectations may not always match reality, and holiday drama can crush even the most joyful Feeling type’s dreams of peacefulness. Their desire for everyone to enjoy the festivities as they do – whether by embracing the magic of the season or by participating in every event – can be a recipe for disappointment.
Both pessimism and unrealistic expectations are certain to result in a disappointing holiday season. Thankfully, there is one (very appropriate) way to turn all of the potential negatives into positives: by creating a consistent, intentional gratitude practice. This simple mind shift can not only increase the enjoyment of the season – it can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.
For those who tend to assume the worst in every situation, it’s difficult to just “think happy thoughts.” Gratitude, however, is different – it allows us to look for things we wholeheartedly enjoy or can’t imagine living without. From a favorite cousin who always makes you laugh to an especially meaningful holiday tradition, there is always something to be grateful for. At the very least, there is usually a plethora of delicious foods to enjoy.
Similarly, those who feel disappointed if the magic they expect from the season doesn’t materialize can still find some form of beauty to appreciate. A cozy evening by the fire, a meaningful conversation with a loved one, and even the smell of goodies baking in the oven can be sources of gratitude. Laughing over burnt cookies with your kids can be just as enjoyable as frosting them, if the focus is on the perfectly imperfect beauty of the experience.
An attitude of gratitude – finding something to be grateful for even when circumstances aren’t ideal – will undoubtedly bring joy back into the holidays for even the most skeptical individuals. And incorporating this practice into everyday life will help any personality type carry the magic of this special season into the New Year.