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What do Mother-in-laws, Christmas decorations and sunshine have in common?

The BBC reported on some new research. Apparently, it’s been discovered that if you put your Christmas decorations up early, you will be happier – the reason being that it brings back happy childhood memories.

A BBC guest therapist – a fan of decorating early – went on to say “Why have just 7 days of happiness when you can have 35 days!” She followed that up with “Putting your lights up early will make you happier but don’t share your pictures on Facebook as this can make other people feel unhappy “

The Independent newspaper also picked up on this festive finding and quoted a Psychoanalyst who said: “Decorations are simply a pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement!”

So it seems that decorations make us happy but sharing photos of our decorations can make other people unhappy. Does this sound like a case of flat-earth thinking to you?!

When our search for data and insight is based on an outside-in premise, it’s funda-mentally flawed from the outset. Any subsequent findings will only perpetuate the illusion that something other than thought and consciousness can make us feel something. We will naturally search for all kinds of hypothesis, justifications, reasons.

When people innocently spread this false idea, they do us more harm than good. We get lulled into a false perception that our innate OK’ness comes from things…and that without those things, we can’t feel OK. But in our hearts we know this simply ISN’T true. What about that person you know who has everything money can buy and yet they never seem to feel content or at peace. Or those with very little material wealth or difficult life situations who are content and happy.
We say they’re ‘so positive’ or resilient. But the reality is that we all are – when we see past our thinking that we’re not.

In 1998, psychologists David Shkade and Daniel Kahneman set out to test the idea that a sunny climate equals a sunny mood, which they wrote up in their paper ‘Does Living in California Make People Happy?’

Two clear findings emerged from their research:

1) Californians are no happier than people from the windy, rainy Midwest

2) Of all the factors that affect people’s life satisfaction, weather was listed at the bottom

This won’t be a surprise to those of us who are aware of the inside-out nature of reality, but from an outside-in perspective, the premise that sunshine makes us happy seems perfectly plausible.

So what has all this got to do with Christmas I hear you ask?

Is Christmas stressful or relaxing for you? It is exhausting or energising? Do you begrudge spending time with your in-laws?!

I used to want to avoid spending too much time with family at Christmas. I would joke with friends and say ‘I can manage a few hours with them all but after that I have to escape’. Sometimes it felt like really hard work. I totally believed that my feelings of irritation and boredom were the result of how certain family members behaved or the situation we were in. I had no idea my thinking had anything to do with those feelings.

I’m not saying that people won’t say or do things that you’d rather they didn’t. But what they say and do is not the problem. Those feelings can only come from your thinking about them and nothing else. But when we don’t realise this, we keep judging, criticising and feeling upset with people or the situation, wishing they or it would change.

And because we’re not present or in the moment, we miss the enjoyment or fun that we otherwise might have because we’re stuck in our repetitive thinking [expectations/preferences/judgements] about what should be different or better.

When I realised that how my family behave at Christmas [or any time for that matter] had no bearing on my feelings of enjoyment or contentment and that I was simply experiencing the natural fluctuations and feedback from my own thinking, it gave me a totally different perspective on the time I spent with them. I could be more present and enjoy my time with them unconditionally.

Sunshine, Christmas decorations and mother-in-laws have alot in common – none have the power to make you happy or unhappy.

So my fellow explorers, enjoy your Christmas and those you are spending it with, whatever shape it may take.

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