Happier Holidays: How to Celebrate No Matter WhatThe Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
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- 14 Dec 2020
A lot of the festive events and traditions we look forward to each year will be very different in 2020. Gatherings might be smaller than we'd like... or cancelled altogether. Family tensions might be heightened too. But Dr Laurie Santos has gathered a group of top happiness experts to share their tips, tricks and science-backed strategies to make this holiday season as good as it can be.... and maybe even great.
Joining Laurie for this festive Zoom party are Jamil Zaki from Stanford University, Liz Dunn from the University of British Columbia and Nick Epley from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
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The 20/20 holiday season is the strangest one I can remember, thanks to covid-19, nearly all of the festive traditions that I share with my family and friends are cancel the parties, the shopping trips, the dinners, they're all gone. It really sucks, especially since I know these social interactions are vital ingredients to my happiness, and that's why I decided to throw a little holiday Zoome party. Hello, happy holiday.
Happy holidays, Pylea to let me catch up with good friends from the world of psychology at the holiday party, right?
Yes, it is totally OK. But also to pick their brains for the latest scientific insights on how to have a happier holiday season. And here was the guest list, Dr. Jamil Zacky from Stanford University. Jamal, are you there? Yes, I can hear you now. Dr. Liz Dunn from the University of British Columbia. Yes.
Try yelling at you guys to turn it, turn it up a little bit. And Dr. Nick Epley from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I started listening to Christmas music in Labor Day, so.
Yeah, that kind of thing. So God rest, every podcast fans get ready to rule your uol with the Happiness Lab Expert Guide to the holidays. With me, Dr. Laurie Santos and friends. An irregular year time famine, that feeling of being overwhelmed, overcommitted and up against the clock, that would be a real driver of my holiday stress and unhappiness. But with the pandemic pretty much emptying my schedule, I suddenly have minutes, hours, even days opening up in my diary list.
Help me connect the dots on why this might be an opportunity I should appreciate more.
I think, interestingly, covid may be helpful in this way, right? Because people just aren't going to have as many commitments and stuff as they usually do. And this could be pretty helpful in terms of enabling people to take a little bit more time to enjoy things that they otherwise might just overlook. So, you know, we did a study once where we went to the Old North Church in Boston, which is like a nice tourist attraction. It's like pretty good.
It's not the Taj Mahal.
And we either made people feel like they had traveled quite a lot in the past or like they'd hardly ever gotten to do anything cool, basically. And then we measured how much time they spent exploring this pleasant tourist attraction. And what we found is that when people feel like they hardly get to do anything cool at all, they spend more time like savoring this small tourist attraction. Right. And so, you know, I think that's potentially a cool thing about covid is that we may feel like we have the time to sort of linger and appreciate these sort of low key, enjoyable experiences that otherwise we might not.
How can we get people to, like, dig in and savor the moment? Right. Again, normal holiday season. This is terrible, right? Because I'm running from thing to thing, and I like that million things on my mind. Right. It's hard to be there when I'm, like, making gingerbread houses with the kids. Right. Like like, how do we have folks dig in and actually pay attention?
Well, I mean, mindfulness is one clear way to increase savoring of of the moment. Right? I mean, it sort of brings this out because I think one thing with the holidays, at least for me, you know, my parents have split up and so I've got multiple extended families. I'm in the car all day bouncing from one town to another in a typical holiday. And wherever I am, I'm just thinking about the next place that I'm going to be in the last place that I was.
It sort of intensifies the sense of existing outside of the here and now where we're anticipating and remembering and not experiencing. So I mean, I think that any time and this may be sort of a mundane tip, but I mean, I think any time that you could just take a couple of deep breaths, look around you, pay attention to the details of what you're seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling. Just to get yourself back into your senses might be one way to sort of turn down the volume on how hectic everything feels.
And the key is like you have to do that very explicitly. I think in the modern age, you know, we all want to multitask. But the act of mono tasking sometimes takes some work, you know, like literally like move your phone out of the room when you're doing the gingerbread house with the kids so you're not tempted to check your email and things like that. Sounds so silly, but it can completely change the experience that you're having.
Oh, and don't worry about taking so many pictures, man. People take just infinite pictures my wife had to throw under the bus here, but my wife's camera roll is like just it's like a trash heap. I mean, it's just ninety pictures of every moment. It's like I'm not ever going to look through that. And in fact, you know, with Diane, it's a mirror. We ran a study again Liz, this is another study in a mundane tourist attraction, but we had people take a tour of the church that's in the middle of Stanford and it was a self-paced tour.
And in some cases, we had students just leave their phone with us and sort of be tech free while they did the tour. And in other cases, we had them take pictures. And in a third case, we forced them to log into their social media accounts, take pictures and then post those pictures to their accounts. And and we found that people reliably remember the event less if they documented it, especially if they documented it in order to share it later.
And it feels like that's just another super reliable way to take ourselves out of the moment is to try to turn this moment into a future memory by documenting it in some way.
And I think that's a huge one. Right? It's not just our technology that's distracting us. Like sometimes we are actively and explicitly using our technology for things that are going to make our memories and our experiences worse.
Yeah, all of these things make them worse, in part because they divide our attention. So happy experiences, positive experiences need to be things that we are focused on and attentive to. That's what it means to be mindful, as Jamal was saying, and divided attention, pursuing multiple goals at once. Just sock's just unpleasant.
So behavioral scientists like help fix this, right? Because I'm pretty sure everyone who's listening is like it's the holidays, it's covid, it's a pandemic. My attention is divided naturally. Right? Like, how do we get it back?
So I have one idea, which is give it as a gift to somebody. Right. If your spouse is always slightly annoyed by the fact that you are like refreshing, five thirty eight are like checking the latest news. Give them. Three days where you put your phone away and then you have to like it just and I think it could also be really helpful in breaking the habit. Right. So I know I although I try to be pretty good about not being on my phone all the time, election season really got me in the habit of just constantly checking it.
And now I'm having trouble stopping that habit. And so I almost need an external force, like having promised somebody as a gift that I'm not going to look at it for three days. I need something like that is like a phone cleanse to, like, break me out of this habit. Oh, I'd love that idea.
Liz, first of all, was the same way I deleted Twitter from my phone after hearing episode on that and then put it back for the election to my strong detriment. But I mean, I think that in many cases we think of nudges, you know, things that will change our behavior for the better. And they're often focused on us. So, like, put the salad closer than the chocolate cake, for instance. But sometimes some of the most powerful nudges are things that actually are service to other people.
So I think there have been a couple of these studies where you can have an app where, like every mile you run, donate some amount of money to charity, some very small amount of money to charity, and that actually prompts people to do the thing that's healthier for them by leveraging their desire to help other people. So I love the idea of them wrapping that into the holidays as well by saying, you know, everyone would benefit, you know, my spouse, my kids and I would all benefit if I could just get off my phone.
So might as well give that as a gift. Hopefully not the only gift, but it's a terrific idea.
Often when behavioral scientists thinking about how to change behavior, we try to think about situation management, how do we change the environment we're in so that we are more attentive to this this moment. So scheduling can be good for this. Gymea was pointing out the the challenge of going from one family to another to another and so on. And that's hard. But covered this this holiday, you know, when we're all in pandemic runs potentially a different risk, which is we don't ever commit to spending time with some set of family members or friends or people who would otherwise commit to.
And I think that's critical to get that on your schedule. So if normally your family would come a day or two before the holidays start and stay with you, well, pre commit to that, announce that and make sure that that is set aside beforehand. Because if you don't do, that ain't going to happen. You just won't get it done.
And I think that's important to do also for the subtle kinds of social connection we get over the holidays that we forget. Right. Every year I go with a friend of grad school and we go to New York and we go holiday shopping together and all the stores. And it feels like during covid we're not naturally going to do that right now. But that's a kind of social connection that I feel like if I don't put that in, I'm going to miss out on it.
Right. So think of like, you know, the work parties and all the subtle things that you're missing out on this year. How can you squeeze that part into that? Seems really important.
I have a question for the group, so I totally agree that it's critical that we carve out time for social connection in the time that this holiday season we won't be having it that much in person. But I think there's something that that is unsatisfying about replacing Synchronoss social connection with Zoome. I mean, I think it is something that we don't need more of in our life. Many of us, it's Zoome conversations and they also are poor replica of meaningful social connections in at least some ways.
Right? I mean, when I go see my family for the holidays, we don't just stand face to face about eighteen inches apart, staring at each other, having to sustain a single conversation. Right. We just sit around, watch a movie, have some eggnog. It's much more low key. And I wonder whether you all have thoughts on how to replicate that sort of not just connected feeling, but a relaxed connection. We've got these great electronic tools for connecting, but the like.
They exert a type of pressure that regular social interaction does it.
Yeah, and there are two pressures. One is one is the pressure of the hoarseness. Right. Like we're all facing each other. We're all in a really specific spot. Or are we? You know, but the second is the the setup cost. Right. Which is high. Right. It's not just like I'm going to run into you at work or, you know, if you're spending two days with the family, you're going to run into that.
Right. You don't have to schedule it. You're going to walk downstairs and they're going to be there. Right. And so how do we get over those two kinds of costs?
So I think we can harness the prosocial idea here. So what has worked for me is I have a group of friends. We all live in Canada, but we're American. And so we were getting together and doing volunteer work leading up to the election, writing letters to voters. And so that was a reason. Even though we were all crazy busy and were saying no to everything that anyone asked us to do, we would get together on Sundays, every Sunday and do that together, sort of socially distanced out on someone's desk.
And that pulled us together. And it was really nice because we were there to do something else, like we would have had a hard time justifying just all getting together to sit around and talk. So that was really nice. And so we've just decided, you know what, we're just going to keep doing it. And now that there's a health order in place, actually where I live, that we can't even a few of us get together, even outside, we're going to do it over Zoom, which won't be nearly as good.
But I think it is nice that we're we're doing something else and we're just there to kind of like support each other and like run things by each other. And, you know, I think there is something really important about being around other people without having to be constantly maintaining a conversation. So that's the that's the brilliance of the book club, right? I'm not I'm not in a book club, but my wife Jen is. And, you know, once a month or so, she gets together with three of our friends.
They're not even that close friends, but they've gotten closer together through this book club experience. They get together once a month and they spend like a little bit of time talking about the book. But mostly they just spend time talking about stuff and it's a wonderful time for her. And one thing I'm wondering is if something like that wouldn't be possible during this holiday season. So over the month of December, say if there couldn't be short books like that with chapters of Advent stories or whatever, that people might be able to get together with their families and just read out loud to each other, there will be some conversation around it.
It would be maybe over Zoome or over the phone, but you wouldn't all be sitting there staring at it. It would just be a speaker in the room. The thing that's hard about Zoom is that we all have to be attentive to this thing. You don't just have floating conversation. That's one idea.
But that's another thing I think we can break neck is this idea that we all have to be attentive. I've been trying to do that in a forced way by my family, gets together every Friday night and we do dinner together and like sometimes I'm busy or I haven't had a chance to cook dinner yet and whatever. And I've just kind of done this force thing of like I'm putting the zoom on while I talk to you, but I'm just walking around the kitchen and I'm just cooking.
Yeah, right. At first when I started doing that, it was like out of necessity because I hadn't done anything yet starving.
It needs something. But in practice it worked really well for a couple reasons. One is it allowed people to see the informality of my life. Right, like, oh, we're in the kitchen now. Like, Oh, you have this pot, right? Like, it's not the sort of staged thing that we often set up when we're zooming with people. But the other is like the conversations kind of go the way they go when you're not trying to be really formal about it.
Right. I think in the holiday season where we're so busy, that's a way to be social while we're doing other stuff, while we're wrapping presents, while we're making cookies or all the other stuff we need to be doing.
I feel like the moderate level of structure that we're used to in like regular conversations doesn't work on Zoome because we constantly interrupt each other and it's not us, by the way. It's not just that we're like that at this.
It's not this one podcast. No, I've talked to I've I've talked to engineers that work in this world basically on these on these issues.
And the problem is they just can't get the electrons to move fast enough so that there's constantly this teeny tiny microscopic delay that's just enough to throw things off such that it is very hard to have a fluid social interaction with more than one other person. Therefore, you can either go super casual like the kitchen thing where it doesn't really matter if you interrupt or you're not talking all the time or I've experienced you can go higher levels of structure where you actually have like, you know, in organized game.
So one of the few Zoome conversations I really enjoyed in the past six months was with my friends where we took the questions from that classic art study where people go deeper and deeper. Right. Asking like if you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be? All you know, all these questions. And I had my friends email their answers to my husband, who made an Excel spreadsheet for us of like everyone's answers. But they were covered.
And then we had everybody's answers. We had everyone on Zoome and each person had to guess who had given which answer. And so there was like structure to it. So nobody interrupted. But we also got to know each other better. So it was actually an opportunity with my really good friends to go, hey, there's probably some stuff we don't know about each other because you've never answered these questions together. And so in a way, if you induce a little bit of structure, this like bizarre situation can potentially give you an opportunity to get to know your friends better than you would in like the normal kind of world where we just rely on our ability to have a standard social conversation.
And I think the structure of just a quick aside and a note on this, I've heard this as well from engineers that in essence, as you put it, is really beautifully the electrons just can't go fast enough for us to really pick up that millisecond level. Q To me, though, that is such a credit to mammals and our species in particular, like we do this so quickly. I mean, just the fluidity of in-person interaction is the thing, you know, I don't know about you all, but I feel that when I do interact with someone in person after seven hours of zoom, it's like running with a backpack on and then suddenly taking it off.
And you realize the facility that we have for this. I hope that's something that we can keep on savoring after we're all allowed to be three dimensional again.
You can also, I think, improve the nature of these conversations by kind of reducing the bandwidth requirements. It's right that the electrons can't move fast enough to move all of this video, but audio works great. And in a lot of experiments that we've run, the sense of connection with another person doesn't really come from seeing them. It comes from hearing them. I mean, when you're connected to somebody else, it's because. As you sort of know them and what does it mean to know somebody means you, you know, what's on their mind and the closest you get to somebody's mind is through their voice, through their words that they share with you, that communicate what's on their mind with you is not seeing their body or their physical presence.
So we can scale down some of those bandwidth requirements and go old school and use these old phones for what they're actually good for, which is talking to each other. Liz pointed out that these Zoome calls don't don't work really well when you're with lots of other people, but they can work really well and one on one conversation in lots of experiments that we conduct, we have people do like the art, Erin, questions. We have people discuss some of the deep and meaningful intimate questions that are there.
We modify them a little bit and we compare those against shallower conversations. And it turns out that people really underestimate how much they're going to enjoy deep and meaningful conversation. Never fear the deep and meaningful talk is only just getting started on the Happiness Lab Expert Guide to the holidays when we return from the break, Jamil, Niclas and I will tackle the thorny topic of what to do when your festive holiday celebrations don't go quite to plan.
You guys can have your compassion. I just like to yell out Christmases ruined Christmases ruined. The Happiness Lab Expert Guide to the Holidays will be right back.
When we left the Zoome party, Nick Eppley was explaining how much we dread engaging in deep and meaningful conversations with people, how vital it can be for boosting our well-being. 20/20 has been an extraordinary year in so many ways, but one of the aspects I worry about most is how many of us have come to dread engaging in just sort of open and honest dialogue. Nick recommends.
There are so many heated, contentious and politicized topics right now that even dinner conversation with our families can feel like a minefield. Luckily, Jamil is a leading expert on how we can all do better at navigating this during the holiday season.
For many of us, our families are some of the only people that we're really close with who have very different experiences and very different backgrounds and beliefs that we do. And bridging that is always difficult. But I mean, right now it just feels impossible. And, you know, we've talked about this before, Laurie, but I think we often underestimate the utility of empathy in those conversations where we often try to write people off. I think that there's no common ground.
And when we actually try to connect and share stories and listen to people who are different from us, it's not just that we listen and feel happier. We're actually we end up often finding some common ground that we didn't realize was there and maybe even being more persuasive. In fact, my graduate student, Luisa Santos, has this amazing work that she's just conducted where she convinces some group of people that, you know, actually empathy is a great tool for relating to people who are different from you.
And it actually can be effective in helping you represent your own position really well. She then tells a separate group of people, you know, empathy is overrated in political conversations. It doesn't really work. And then she had those people who had read one of those essays, write a note to somebody who they disagreed with about an issue. And then we found people who actually disagreed with them and had them read the notes. And we found that when people were convinced that empathy was useful, they wrote notes that were perceived as more empathic by someone they disagreed with.
But it wasn't just that the person they disagreed with was more persuaded and came closer to the opinion of the original note writer. And so, in essence, when we know that empathy is useful, we use it and it becomes useful. And I think that we underestimate how useful it will be. And therefore, don't try to make connections, even though there might be some to be made.
One critical component of empathy is listening rather than presuming you know what's on the mind of another person. Jamil noted that we often dread these kinds of conversations, but it's important to recognize where that dread is coming from. It's not coming from the actual conversation we've just had with someone that's not coming from the actual connection experience. It's coming from our expectation of how this is going to go. We are playing out this interaction, imagining all of the stupid things that they are going to say and all the hateful ideas they're going to present to us.
And usually when you then end up talking to somebody like that and you ask them, hey, I got this thing that's kind of bugging me, maybe we should talk about or we got this kind of difficult conversation that maybe we ought to have you often find. Well, I wasn't so bad after all. At least we find that in our research, because the mind that you imagine in these difficult circumstances or with these difficult relationships often isn't quite as extremely bad as you imagine.
And you don't learn that if you are just talking, you have to be listening to what the other person has to say. Yeah.
In fact, Mina Chikara and others have found something that I like to call phantom polarization. I mean, it's true that people are far apart on issues. It's also true that there's a lot of animosity, but even worse. And that is what we imagine other people to think about us. So if you ask liberals, for instance, what do you think conservatives believe about you? How do you think they feel about you? They'll say, oh, my God, they hate my guts entirely.
They see nothing of value in me. And if you ask conservatives, how do you feel about liberals? They don't love them, but they by no means feel as much animosity as liberals believe that. And that goes in the other direction as well. So to Nick's point, I mean, we're imagining this conversation. We're making assumptions both about this person's beliefs, but also about their beliefs about us. And we might be wrong in both cases, but we'll never know and we'll never have a chance to find any common ground unless we ask them.
And I think one of the spots this year in particular, where we have a lot of kind of negative expectations, is around these conversations that are specific to covid right now. Right. Like one of the hard conversations I think a lot of families are having right now is this should we get together? Maybe we're not going to get together. Maybe different members of the family have different expectations about whether it's a good idea to get together. How do we navigate the sort of covid norms that covid conflict during this time of year here?
Here's my idea, which is that this isn't for convincing a relative, it's just for sort of managing this challenge. So where I live throughout most of covid, we've been able to get together, but only in small groups. So you've been allowed to have six people. The challenge is that you're in this position of like choosing your favorite people in a way that has to be like super exclusive and explicit, which is terrible. Right. So I propose this idea to my friends, which they did not go far, but I still think it's a good idea, which is that we should have like a potluck where basically.
Everyone puts their name in a hat and then you drop off like five people that are your safe sex then for that month. And what I think that does is allows us to follow this rule of like keeping our groups small, but without implying that, oh, because I didn't choose you for my safe sex. I don't care about you. I don't like you because we know that's the sense of being socially excluded is just devastating to people, even if they know that, like, hey, there's a really good reason for doing this right now.
It's it feels awful. And so I think acknowledging this upfront and creating like a pool and then making it, making it explicitly random and like doing the drawn zoom or something is might be a good way to go.
Another avenue for convincing relatives that might want to get together and might not understand why it's not a great idea to do so is again to leverage our desire to be kind to one another. There's evidence now. Gillian Jordan published some work recently demonstrating that people are more willing to engage in social distancing if it's framed as a way to protect other people as opposed to protecting ourselves. So, for instance, you know, my parents, they understand that we're going to be having a distant holiday.
But if they didn't, it might not strike them. That great is saying, well, I don't want to be around you because I don't want to get sick. Perhaps a more effective message would be I don't want to be around you because I don't want you to be sick. I want to protect you from a potential risk here.
Yeah, I've heard this, too, of like, you know, if something happened to you, how could I ever think of Christmas the same way again? You know, I really need to I know this sucks right now, but kind of future us is going to be so pleased that we did it this way kind of thing. A different challenge that folks are facing with covid-19 is that those people who like the holidays and like Christmas, that is not me, but that is some people, Nick, maybe people are really grieving the fact that our holiday traditions might be broken or really different this year.
Right. How do we kind of navigate that?
Do you mean our holiday traditions of sort of togetherness or just all kinds of stuff? Right. You know, my family, you know, often there's a Star Wars movie that comes out around the holiday season. So typically in December, we get together and we watch the new Star Wars or you go shopping at the mall with your family members. Right. We have this family tradition when I go visit my husband's family in Iowa that we all go to Target together because we've never sought it out and gotten our shopping done.
So we always go on like Christmas Eve to target, but we each get a peppermint mocha at the target and it feels so nice and like it sounds silly, but I'll actually miss the peppermint mocha. It's like the best thing about Christmas season for me. It's the most of it. Yeah. So how do we kind of navigate kind of just being sad about those those moments and those traditions being broke?
So this is a good question. Maybe for the group. We may have different opinions about this. I can I can see going one of two ways here. One is to try to recreate these. Right, so, you know, we can think of lots of different ways where, Laura, you could have your peppermint mocha, you all set up a time, and we're going to go Wednesday night at six o'clock and off we go and get it.
And that there might be some experiences that we can recreate like that that would be just as good as the original. But there are a lot of experiences that we probably can't recreate. And for those, I think it's probably best not to try like a a B plus version of the holiday is a you know, it's kind of like what we used to do, but it's kind of a sucky version of what we used to do. Like, that's not worth trying.
Instead, you'd be better off just doing something totally different. We're going to come up with a totally new thing that we're going to do just this one weird holiday season. I'm curious to hear what other folks think about about this tension. Do we recreate and try to come close or do we just scrap it, do something totally different? I'm on the recreate side, I think, because first off, if you have little kids, I think they so want things to be a certain way and to be familiar.
And so their most recent holiday that I experienced was Halloween. And, you know, my eight year old had ideas about exactly how everything should work because that's how Halloween is. And it was freakishly important to him that, like, things be that way. And so, you know, we actually and not to overindulge our child, but just with the these times being so weird, we really wanted to try to recreate that for him. So we actually managed to do most of the things in the same way, you know, we still went trick or treating and there were things we could do safely that I think had enough of the characteristics of the usual experience.
I said to my husband at the end of the night. Trick or treating like even though we noticed so many differences tonight, it had enough of those features. It will feel like he had a Halloween this year. Yes, so that's part of it is trying to diagnose like what are the necessary features, right. And some of it, you know, maybe we could recreate a resume of like, oh, we're together and this other way. But some of it's like, no, it's really about the candy.
Like, if you don't have the candy, it just doesn't count.
So I too, would fall on the recreate side. My dad and I also like we have a tradition of watching, you know, whatever crappy blockbuster movie comes out right around Christmas. And I think we'll probably contingent on a 70 plus year old man being able to run this, try to do one of those Netflix watch parties that you can do. And likewise, my mom always cooks Peruvian food. And so I'll try to recreate some of it's like she's sending me recipes and I'll try to make them, which will probably cause some small explosion but is still worth it.
And it's actually will be new for me to do it instead of her and might be meaningful in a different way. But if I could just add one thing. I think we can try to find fixes. We can try to either recreate or we can do something totally new. I'd like to also acknowledge that we can also mourn the loss of this holiday season. And that's OK. It's OK to focus on the struggles that we're going through, acknowledge them and be mindful of them as well.
I mean, that's part of what self compassion entails, is not just escaping suffering, but paying attention to it and especially acknowledging that it's a part of our common humanity. I mean, I think in some of the self compassion exercises that I do, for instance, you imagine something that you're struggling with, something that's causing you pain, and then you imagine a soccer stadium full of other people who are suffering in the same way right alongside you. And I mean, there are enough people in the world that there's probably a soccer stadium worth of suffering in any way at any given time.
But I think this holiday season, millions or billions of us will be united in the loss of things that we have celebrated in our lives. And that's tough. But it's also something that that we share together. And I think remembering that that's just a common experience and focusing on it in that way can take a little bit of the of the edge off of it.
I also think this is where the human capacity for adaptation comes in really handy, because I've been finding that experiences that normally weren't that amazing to me, like going out to dinner with a couple of friends.
Now I'm like, well, look at us at dinner with two friends. This is amazing, you know?
And so what might have been a B plus Christmas in a normal year might feel like an egg because we're grading it on the curve of like our covid level experiences. And I would argue that we may have had a bit of happiness reset where it's easier to derive joy from sort of simpler, less impressive pleasures. And we might be able to capitalize on that in recreating some of these experiences.
So the last question before we kind of wrap up is, you know, hopefully our listeners are putting into effect all these holiday tips, but what if it's an absolute disaster, you know, worst holiday ever? How do you pick yourself up afterwards and recover?
You know, I come back to self compassion. I think that this is just unequivocally an unhappy time. If you look at the heat and ometer, I don't know if you have seen this is this sort of device that computer scientists and psychologists have put together that scrapes Twitter and basically uses language processing to estimate how happy the world is. And they've had these estimates, estimates every day since 2008. And I mean, we're just far and away the least happy year, at least since since they've recorded those data.
And I think it's it's fine to not feel OK right now. It's a very common experience and it's common during the holidays, in other years. So you've got a compound, you're getting this double whammy of the holiday season, which can be stressful, plus twenty twenty, which is stressful. And so I think if if you're not feeling well right now, some acceptance might be a good a good way to to treat yourself well, even even when you're not feeling it.
Can I shift gears on that just a little bit? The self compassion part, I think is a good point, but compassion towards others is also a very critical and if you've had a really bad experience that you have been involved with, it's possible that there's something that that you've done that you could apologize for. Like, look, I shouldn't have reacted that way. We're all stressed. I should have spent more time with this. And and and you can recover a lot by saying, I'm sorry.
And so if something has gone bad, you know, it's not likely that you are going to be the only one who's responsible for it going bad, but taking some ownership of that and righting any wrongs you may have contributed to by calling somebody up and saying you're sorry for what happened and you hope this won't happen again. And here's what we can try to do to make things better next time. I think that's how you recover. And that's not just a bad holiday.
That's how you recover from anything you've screwed up at is you accept responsibility for what you did and you grab hold of your agency and you say, I'm sorry for screwing up.
You guys can have your compassion. I just like to yell out Christmases ruined.
And that makes me feel better as a you remember the Santo's family because I feel like we might have some Christmases ruined.
Well, I think that gets to the last thing is this idea that one tendency this holiday season is going to just be to complain a lot. Right. Like there's so much we're missing in our routines are messed up and it's not the same as before. Any strategies for either complaining better or doing something that's a kind of instead of complaining that might be good, I would suggest complaining first.
They can get it out of the way. All right, we've had that. Now let's get on with that. And you acknowledge it. As Jamie pointed out, it's good to acknowledge when times are sucky, say that and then get on with it. Onward. Let's have a holiday. Yeah, I mean, my wife is a therapist. And, you know, she says that any loss, not just the loss of people, but the loss of experiences and things that you hope for can be mourned.
And one interesting thing about morning is that it's intense. You really focus on it, and that makes it easier to move on. So, yeah, to the next point, I mean, I think that complain intentionally rather than having this ambient thing that's floating around. Do you like pig pens? Cloud of dust. Right. Is just to do it intentionally, really focus on what has been lost and then hopefully that can help one.
Well, yeah. And I think this is where New Year's comes in handy. So, like, even if the holidays don't go great. Right. Like, I mean, I think everyone's going to feel like, you know, hey, 20-20, don't let the door hit you on the back. And so I think New Year's Eve, even though we're all probably just going to be like home, drinking champagne on our couches is going to be awesome because see, hell 20/20.
Right. And so, like it does, I think it's going to give us this fresh start. So no matter how badly the holidays go, we get to have that fresh start with like, hey, twenty, twenty one. It's already looking better. Yeah. I don't want to say it can't be worse, but it is this.
We know that, that things like a new year arriving give us this opportunity for a fresh start. So even if we've gotten into this like complaining mode, like bitter mode, this unhappy mode like, OK, then have at it throughout Christmas and everything. But then when New Year's comes, like use that opportunity for that fresh start.
Thank you, behavioral scientist, for making one of my worst holidays, maybe a little bit better this year. I'll I'll, I'll text you at the December twenty six and I'll let you know how it went and was great fun.
It was fantastic. As always. We got to do this every year, every major holiday.
Maybe we will make this a new tradition. I really enjoyed hosting this virtual party, but I'll let you in on a secret. It didn't go as planned. The one I sent my friends is a thank you gift, never turned up. And we had some technical hiccups that really ate into the time we'd hoped to use just for goofing around. And yes, we talked over each other by mistake a lot. Yeah, like I oh, I'd love that idea, Liz.
But on the whole, I'm really, really glad we made the effort. And I hope you learn something that will make your holidays a little happier. Despite all the challenges of this really difficult year, the happiness lab will return in twenty, twenty one for that fresh start. Liz was talking about starting January 4th. We'll bring you four special shows looking at the things many of us get wrong when we try to adopt that New Year New You attitude.
I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, but we've booked some amazing guests, including some folks that I really fangirl over. So thrilled that you took time to join my podcast. Thank you so much.
It's very mutual. The appreciation. Oh, thank you.
So until then, I wish you a happier holiday season and here's to a fantastic New Year. The Happiness Lab is co-written and produced by Ryan Dilli, the show was mastered by Evan Viola and our original seasonal holiday music was composed by Zachary Silver, special thanks to the entire Pushkin crew, including Mia LaBelle, Kali Migliori, Heather Vaine, Sophie Krein McKibbon, Eric Sandler, Jacob Weisberg and my agent Ben Davis. The Happiness Lab is brought to you by Pushkin Industries and me, Dr.