We've all felt the pressure of gift-giving, during Christmas time. We tend to assume that the mood or satisfaction of us and our peers is dependent on the gifts we give and receive. However, recent research by psychologists suggests the exact opposite. In fact, materialism may actually increase anxiety, and prevent us from enjoying Christmas with our family.
The Myth About Christmas
It is important to understand Christmas from a historical context. Christmas is nowadays a celebration of the birth of Jesus. However, Christianity is neither the only religion nor the first to celebrate the birth of the son of God, born of a virgin mother, destined for deliverance, and whose birth was foreseen in advance. This trope - and the traditions surrounding it, such as decorating a pine tree, gift giving, and gathering around a fire - is recurrent in Vedic, Mithraic, and Pagan religions, because the people who practiced these religions - respectively, upper-caste Indians, Persians & Romans, and other Europeans - all originate from the southern Ukrainian Steppes, and thus, once shared a single culture known as Yamna culture.
Modern Christmas draws its traditions from these older religions, and thus, has for most of our history placed its emphasis on group activities, interaction, and social cohesion. However, today's version of Christmas has been reduced to consumerism and shopping malls. In the process, we have lost the valuable benefits that was afforded to us, in the past; we are now more atomized and nihilistic than ever, and psychologists report rates of Christmastime depression and suicide at historically record levels.
1. Avoid Materialism
Christmas gifts are about the act of giving, and not status signaling. Often, people will feel social pressure to outcompete their peers in getting more expensive gifts; inevitably, this leads to anxiety and the fear of being perceived as cheap. Instead of focusing on the material value of a gift, consider its sentimental value! Often DOING something for someone, is the greatest gift of all. Planning a get together, visiting a loved one, including family members and/or friends in the Christmas activity, baking, creating a photo album, and simply: being there for each other!
2. Focus on Spiritual Activities
There are various community activities that are associated with Christmas. These include Christmas sermons, Church-related charities, Christmas choirs, and so on and so forth. In general, psychologists observe that group activities that involve the members of our group performing similar or identical tasks tend to reinforce our identity and sense of belonging to our group. A sense of belonging that is created towards the right group, that is our family, our roots, creates a sense of support and acceptance, which are the greatest antidepressants and antianxiety!
3. Focus on Family Activities
Psychologists view family activities as excellent ways to improve family dynamics and cohesion. Family traditions around Christmas can vary from family to family, but they typically involve cooperative or identical activities, such as opening gifts, gathering around a fireplace, drinking Christmas soups, and drinking Glüwhein. The very act of acting in conformity to each other can be a very bonding experience.
As conflicts are part of any family, some families have been suffering greater ruptures. Thus, besides the material pressure, Christmas time brings the sadness of not being around the loved ones. So put aside your grudges towards your loved ones. Don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on the big picture. Ask yourself, if ever anything happened to me, if ever I am in greatest need who will be there for me? This is the person you can count on, this is your family! Make Christmas celebration a time of family celebration.
Christmas time is the time to give yourself and your family the greatest gifts of all: the gift of love, belonging, acceptance, and forgiveness! Wish you all a happy and joyful Christmas time with your families and loved ones!
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are not to be misinterpreted as medical, clinical, or any other professional advice. The views expressed are opinions and / or ideas founded on research and clinical experience. These views are meant to provoke awareness and inquiry into various issues, and thus, create an open-minded dialogue, civil discussion, and respectful debate among our readers. Any claims made are subject to change should new studies be conducted that disprove these claims.