Most people aren't actually happier during the holidays

According to a popular Christmas carol, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the truth is this: it’s not always wonderful for everyone. Science shows that expectations for holiday joy remain over-confident year after year. As we move into the holiday season, it is important thing to remember that this time of year really is about celebrating: celebrating family, celebrating love, and celebrating that every day is a gift, that's why it's called the present.

So often we hear people say, or we find ourselves saying, “have a happy holiday” as if it is something that we will get or will just happen, and the reality is that a happy holiday doesn't just happen. Holidays are what we make them, and there are things you can do to make your holiday season happier.

Be in the moment
We often spend so much time consumed with what is to come or what has already happened that we miss what is happening right now. The best present you can give yourself and others this season the gift of your full presence. Mind your mind and do your best to be present in conversations, cooking, and at holiday celebrations instead of letting your mind wander to the past or future.

Give, give, give
We know the adage that “it is better to give than to receive”, and it turns out that science confirms the truth in that saying. In a Harvard study, researchers assessed the well-being of people who were given money. Those who were instructed to spend the money they were given on others were happier than those who spent it on themselves. Giving to others makes us feel good about ourselves, and when we give we may get a piece of the pleasure they receive via our brain's mirror neurons. Consider giving money to a charity or treating a friend at your local coffeehouse this holiday to increase your happiness.

Do something nice for someone else
 The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to help others. Lending a hand can be anything from volunteering at a local homeless shelter to sending an unexpected holiday card to the older lady down the block or the barista who serves your latte with a smile every morning. A random act of kindness benefits the giver as much as the receiver and boosts both people's happiness. Taking time to do something nice for someone will brighten both of your holidays.

Don’t forget about you
While this may go against your instincts, make it a priority to make time for you. Choose something you're going to do for yourself, whether it is going for a run before your house guests wake up, slipping off to get a manicure during your trip to the mall, or simply sneaking away to meditate for five minutes in a quiet corner of your home.

Say goodbye to technology
The holidays are a golden opportunity for quality bonding time while everyone is under the same roof. This time can also be a wasted opportunity if there are too many digital distractions. While it may be unrealistic to have totally tech-free holiday gatherings, creating boundaries for a low-tech holiday is an easily adaptable balance. Schedule times to unplug and commit to those guidelines.

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