Overjoyed or Overwhelmed this Christmas?

Job loss, economic woes. Why do tough times stir despair in some and courage in others, especially during holidays like Christmas? When people feel life hitting back – below the belt, why do some rise and some fall?

I’d been inspired  recently in discussions on this dilemma,  with Robyn, Eva, Greg, Pamir, Jeannie, Lissa, Janet and Dean. Great ideas from smart leaders whose blogs nudge us deeper into keys for Christmas contentment. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or others, key principles for contentment come hardwired into your brain. What’s your take?

Listen to this year’s Christmas stories out there, and you’ll hear endless tales of overwhelmed and overjoyed polar opposites in people’s response to holiday stress. Surprisingly, overwhelmed people sometimes sport bigger bank accounts, better health – even positive attitudes, or finer intentions. Have you seen it too? Equally surprising, is the fact that some people in the overjoyed camp often face life’s bigger challenges.  Their 401K nest eggs melt into 101 ashes, health care drops off their firm’s benefit package just when they need it most.  You can likely name endless other direct hits from our troubled economy.  

Research shows how human brains equip people to fill holidays with cheer – in spite of debris that washes up to spoil life’s shores. How so? The  brain’s power tools can help you build wonder in places where you’ve settled for woe’s misery in the past.

Act now on what you’d value in your future.  Research shows how actions literally reshape your brain for more of what you expect.

Smile, regardless of how you feel, for example, and your brain’s plasticity changes in your favor. The action triggers your brain to create new neuron pathways toward a happier reality.

Give even a small gift of encouragement or support, without conditions, and in spite of personal loss.  In response, your brain raises levels of serotonin chemicals for sustainable well being.

Mimic the actions of a person you most admire for their holiday spirit, and your brain rewires dendrite brain cells for more of the same admirable spirit in you. Develop a new intelligence at the same time, and your brain rewires itself for further growth in that area.

Laugh, especially at yourself, and not only will others laugh with you, but your brain will create enzymes for clear thinking, better learning and adventures brimming over with possibilities in spite of turbulent times.

Discover one new insight by converting a rut into a renewed reality you’d like others to see in you. Phone one person you dislike today and invite that person to lunch to find out what’s working well in life. Curiosity and this call moves your brain’s basal ganglia from the rut of loathing into newly created possibilities lived from within your working memory.

Support one person who thinks on the opposing side of your own holiday views, and watch how your concrete defense of that person will leave you mentally able to override your brain’s default for ruts that held you back in past. The action shows you new possibilities where you may have slipped into limiting problems in past.

Can you see how brain based recommendations here carry you beyond hopeful or positive thinking? Do a few simple behaviors, and your brain does the rest for you.

Use any one of the above brainpower tools by simply doing a related act and you’ll spark brain cell regeneration for more satisfaction.  Or create a brain power tool of your own and then use it, in spite of troubled times. Scientifically speaking, these tips come from neurogenesis research on how adult brains can grow new cells or regenerate old ones. Worth a try?

7 Comments

  1. Lissa Boles says:

    You never fail to amaze me with the agile and powerful ways you make the process of improving our experience of life – and our capacity to live it well – simple and clear.

    Guess its all that brain work, huh?

  2. eweber says:

    Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, Lissa! Life is a real treat when it gets lived out with fine thinkers like you on keen topics of shared interest. The cool part is that another corner rounded – promises another wonder observed! Now that makes the journey a treat for the future as well:-)

  3. Eva Ulian says:

    Nothing truer ever said. No matter how disadvantaged you were born consequently predisposed to depression; action, your action can dispel even the most unhappy brain. A smile takes you a long way away from a miserable situation and if things get really desperate, nothing better than to sing and dance… I usually end up singing Liebster Jesu in other words Oh noble head once wounded… But there’s also Hot Cross Buns or Jingle Bells since its this time of the year.

    Eva Ulians last blog post..106. Three Writers I Know Who Click

  4. eweber says:

    Thanks Eva! You build a good case for the wonderful way a person’s gene pool and socialization work together Eva. Research would support your notion of action here – but I love the song and dance combo! Must remember that one!

  5. I’m going to target the laughing more as I prep for Christmas. Great idea and I can see that it takes just a bit of focus.

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Tune-in Tasks to Stay Mentally Fit

  6. [...] with ethics, and yet its absence torments victims of regret, blame or cynicism. It shows up at Christmas in those with extra joy, and fades away for those who grow [...]

  7. [...] We’ve all seen it reach higher levels in tone communicated by an intrapersonal genius, and nosedive in a bully or cynic. It packs a punch with faith at times, and builds a better world when ethics becomes its fuel. Yet its absence torments victims of regret, blame or cynicism, where brains default to ruts. It shows up far less in toxic workplaces, and fades in people easily overwhelmed. [...]

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