Social Connections, an Antidote to Holiday Stress

By December 24, 2011Health Tips

While researching today’s topic, I ran across a related concept from blogger, Corey Allen, who wrote ‘‘my father-in-law aptly stated it this way: one of the best things about the holidays is seeing the headlights of family members coming up the driveway to visit. The second best thing about the holidays is seeing their taillights as they drive away”. Time spent with family during the holiday season can be tremendously fulfilling, but can also be a source of stress.

Images of “perfect” holidays on TV and in magazines can create unrealistic expectations and set the stage for disappointment. Since no one’s life is perfect, one way of countering this is to recognize all the things and people in your life that make you feel grateful. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Gratitude helps us connect to something larger than ourselves, whether it is to other people, to nature, or to a higher power. Research has found that people who acknowledge the goodness in their lives have higher levels of subjective well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.

Social connections, including family and friends, also have an important bearing on our health and well-being. A number of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family and friends are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. On the other hand, depression, cognitive decline, and premature death occur more often in those individuals who have fewer social ties. One study found that lacking strong social ties was as great a risk factor for dying prematurely as was obesity or physical inactivity.

This holiday season, take advantage of family gatherings and social activities to show your appreciation to those who are important to you. Be slow to judge family members or friends, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Focus on what you like about them, not their shortcomings. Give people the benefit of the doubt and consider how it would feel to be in their shoes. Remember that they may also be experiencing the effects of holiday stress or depression. Set aside personal grievances until they can be dealt with at a more appropriate time and place. “Counting your blessings” includes the friends, family, and loved ones that make your life more complete.

From all of us at eDocAmerica, have a happy and healthy holiday season.

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