1.23 Happy Holidays 

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A: Hi. I'm Aicila.  

E: And I'm Erik.

A: And this week we're gonna have a short episode talking about Happy Holidays.

E: So we figured ... with the holidays coming up it'd be a good time to talk about something of a more personal nature ... for ourselves and our listeners. And that is what is the definition of happiness? What does happiness  look like during this time of year? ... Aicila and I both have experience with people our lives that we're close to and acquaintances that have a rough time around the holidays. And ... I can truly say that for me, I mean between some time off from work and ... my family being close and being able to spend a lot of time at holiday events and things like that, it's been always been a very happy time for me. But other people do have a harder time.

A: Yeah it can be a lonely time. I usually put something out there, usually on my blog or on Facebook to sort of- In the midst of all the holiday cheer, I think especially people who are grappling with depression; or maybe aren't close to their family; or they've lost a loved one, sometimes they can feel a sense of loneliness or being left out. So I try to acknowledge that.

E: And I think that's that's wonderful. And ... you know I've always ... had a pretty open door policy on holiday gatherings and things like that for people that don't have family or something going on. And my and my family's come to expect that. But in general ... yeah I think it really just depends on your perspective. And this led us to some conversation that led to the topic choice here because you had an article that you like to reference.

A: It's true I do. I bought a like ... a copy of Psychology Today gosh five years ago. The title was "What Do Happy People Do Differently?". And I thought well that that would be interesting. What do they do differently? So there there ah  cover art worked and made a sale. And I kept the article. Because I found the I found it to be very valuable information. And one of the things that they talked about in one of the little side bars is, you know, especially here in America. We have the pursuit of happiness is one of the inalienable rights.

E: Right.

A: Right

E: We all can pursue it.

A: We can pursue it. And one of the statements they made, is that while happiness has been shown to be an indicator of health. Or a person who is happy tends to be healthier ... physically. There's a longevity thing  attached to it. That the pursuit of happiness is often counterproductive to actually having happiness.

E: It sounds to me a little bit like the whole cliche of telling someone to relax.

A: It's super effective right?

E: I don't know that that that a lot of people get the idea that being told to relax is not usually relaxing for the recipient. And pursuing happiness, according to this article, is something that actually leads people to being unhappy. And I I I can see that in some obvious ways such as like materialistic pursuits, you know.

A: Yeah. Well  one of the distinctions they make. And it's a distinction that I actually made for myself in life. Is sort of the difference between feeling good in the moment, like pleasure, and a sense of happiness. That you know satisfaction, or pleasure, can be fleeting. Something that occurs maybe you get a promotion or you have an orgasm or you go out and have an amazing concert experience. And those are things that are pleasurable. They- they provide a chemical reaction in your body and or a material benefit, such as the the promotion might provide a financial benefit or something. And having pleasurable experiences can sometimes be confused with being happy.  People who are happy don't have one pleasurable experience after another. They're actually more comfortable with the reality that  there are some pleasurable experiences; there are some boring experiences; there are some not so good or bad experiences. It's just a mix. And that sometimes having really great pleasurable experiences can do something. Like the article is saying that it you can raise your bar in a certain way. And so then so perhaps you get a promotion and then you go to your kid's soccer game. And you don't actually enjoy it. Because your bar for feeling good has been raised by this other thing.

E: That makes some sense. I I think there is a little bit of desensitization that can happen with experience. ... I can put it in my own experience ... akin  to seeing a certain amount of cynicism in myself and in other people my age. As we get older we we can become more cynical about things and that's because you know what wowed me at twenty five just doesn't strike me the same way at forty. And there is a certain amount of acceptance of that but I can see how that would apply to just happiness in general. If you- if your bar is a beach in Tahiti, you know, then yeah presumably  for most of the weeks of the year when you're not there you're unhappy by your own definition.

A: Right. And that and it's the sort of a studied phenomenon and interestingly there was an article that came out sometime in the last couple years that's-  ... it was it wasn't as click bait titles and the actual article was fairly solid with primary research and things like that. However the the gist of it was the people who are happiest in their relationships are the ones with the lowest expectations. So if you if you really want your relationship to thrive just set your bar a little bit lower. Stop ...

E: So this brings me to something that I find sometimes lacking sometimes and I've been very conscious of trying to address it. And that is appreciation. Because ultimately happiness  can come from appreciating your own situation. I think back to the point of pursuit. When you're always wanting and never getting or getting slowly or thinking about how you can improve this or purchase that thing and make things better in your life. You're not actually appreciating where you're at. And I struggle with that. You know a lot of the time I spend thinking about ways in which I feel like my life would be better. ... Not even materialisticly  but just you know in a different situation. What if I bought a bigger house ... you know and had more space? Would I have more hobbies that I was into?  I-I ... I can be into a lot of hobbies personally, so.  You know and I see that is like may be room to do everything I want to do, you know. Which is still materialistic cause it involves purchasing a house. But, you know, just creating a space, will that make me happy? Instead of appreciating that you know for example the studio we're recording in right now is pretty well out- outfitted and actually serves us.

A: Yeah, it's really great. ... Appreciation and gratitude has been shown really consistently to lead to all sorts of actual health benefits. So I think that's definitely a factor. They don't actually mention it in terms of the happiness the article, in this particular article.

E: I totally extrapolated that.

A: I I don't think you're- yeah.  No, I think it's a I think it's a really good point I appreciate you bringing it forward. The other- the other thing that I think about, especially with regards to the holidays, is that ... I know a lot of folks have kind of expressed around me in my life a dissatisfaction with the consumerism of Christmas. And it to me is related to that sort of distinction again between sort of pleasure and happiness. There is a kind of a pleasure in being able to give gifts and receive gifts  and share with people, share your abundance, whatever you have the people you care about. And it's easy also that to get fixated on that. And to think that's what's the the whole the whole story. And another thing that they're really clear about in the article is they're not saying pleasures bad or even that you shouldn't. They're like yes definitely like everybody needs to have some of these moments of pleasure and indulgence and that's great. Then also couple it with purpose. So for the holidays, for example, doing something like one of the volunteering at a shelter or doing one of the gift giving things many of the stores have them. Also lots of the churches and community centers will do things for families. Like you can get- you can give a family a meal. A friend of mine her birthday is in a couple weeks and for her birthday she bought twenty kits to make bags for foster kids for Christmas. And so we're all gonna get together at her house and build these foster kid kit bags. I'd never heard of this before. I'm like, what a great idea. Foster kids often have a lot of like transients and this gives them you know these kids will have some feeling of people care about us other than just the ones immediately around. .. So there's a lot of things like that but the the purpose thing this is really important that having a purpose. And ... you know they're clear it's not always easy to find your purpose.

E: Well and you know I think the consumerism that a lot of people are actually feeling is you can  get bombarded with TV commercials and advertising this time of year. And people think oh I don't watch TV or whatever. Well let me assure you that you've probably seen a lot of it on the internet if not cause that's where we consume a lot of our media. But yeah we do we see that this is now a world where the reward at the end of the year is getting the gifts that you wanted.

A: Yeah.

E: I mean you know Best Buy's tagline is, you know, get what you wanted. Like it's  all over their advertising every year. ...

A: Well and I don't know if you have this experience. I know  when I was a kid, the the excitement of the holiday was partially rooted in my own helplessness to to get the things that I wanted.

E: Right we got our presents that we asked for from our parents, or from Santa,  or whatever. And that was it. Like you know and and I had that experience too. Like Christmas was five or six big presents that I'd probably been holding out for most of the year.

A: So it was a big deal. It definitely was a it was because I couldn't- I mean until I was old enough to have a job, I could work for it. I could just be good, not be naughty  and get rewarded. And I just remember the moment as an adult when I realized that that wasn't happening anymore. That I actually could sort of just do the things that I wanted to do.

E: Oh I took that power and ran. I I definitely have lived my life in a place where I know I'm hard to shop for around the holidays for people. Because I'm not the kind of person who doesn't just go out and get that thing that I wanted.

A: Well ... and also for me it really that's when I started to understand the joy of giving. So I started to realize like oh that's why people get into that. When you realize you have the ability to secure the things that you want, you can also get to a point where you realize that there's no one thing that's gonna make you happy.  Like it's not the same as when you're a kid where that bike is gonna be this mode of freedom and transportation for the next three years.

E: Right.

A: And so maybe I'll get some things and I'll of course appreciate them and the thoughtfulness of them. And then the reality, especially when I had kids, oh I can I can do this thing that's I'm gonna  watch their face light up like the whole world.

E: Well and  presumably our parents did that to us.

A: Yeah exactly. So it's like you get to pay it forward I guess.

E: Right so I think that's where that kind of came from understanding their reasoning behind it you know. It was- there's no reason that my mom had to spread things out over the year or give it to me all at once. But I think she tried to build that excitement.

A: Well there's something to anticipation. So there is one of the things they say. I'm gonna- So  you -you said this, you anticipated the article. If you want to envision a happy person stance imagine one foot rooted in the present with a mindful  appreciation of what one has and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet to be uncovered sources of meaning.

E: And then you know thinking about that my initial response is the future and what can come it but it doesn't have to be material.

A: Right.

E: It could be things that you're doing. ... Obviously one of our themes that we have on this show a lot is involvement and going out and doing stuff. And you know what maybe it's the one time a year you do volunteer at the soup kitchen. Maybe it's something that you do to help out your friends because you open your doors to people who don't have family. Or maybe you just have a holiday party and everybody gets to connect. You know there's a lot of different things. And it doesn't all have to look like something. It's a mentality. ... One of the things you brought up we were having the discussion about this topic ... you know it's easy this time of year to to do things that feel good, bring instant pleasure. Eat too much; enjoy the desert afterwards and all of that. Whether you feel regret or not about that, you know, it's sort of a fleeting thing. But you know and and and you're allowed to be happy and enjoy that you did that. And it was pleasurable but realistically I think it's good to ask oneself if you know that maybe plus giving, whether it's gifts or your time or volunteering or doing something from a truly altruistic place won't be equally of if slightly more fulfilling  in some way.

A: And that's exactly it. What you're saying is the combination of things. Like really finding a way to do some things that are pleasurable and fun indulgent whatever. And also stay connected to some part of the purpose in your life. ... One of the things that they were saying, it's actually a different article I was reading that said you know if you spend all of your time wishing you were on vacation or escaping from life into you know video games or books I guess although I love books I will add them to the list or movies or whatever. And you're not actually present with what's happening it can be more more difficult to deal with the real world. Harder harder harder and harder time being in the world as it is.

E: I can see escapism   as being a cause of unhappiness. I mean and and I think everybody does it at some point in some way. ... You know even the most extroverted person might need to recharge the batteries or do something that you know feels like it's for them. And you have to be careful not to fall into a trap of idealizing something that's not real.

A: Yeah.   Nostalgia   right?

E: Yeah. Well nostalgia is the idealization of memories and and that sort of thing. Like we think you know the seventies the eighties or nineties now were this nostalgically  magical time and things were better. But that's just because of the nature of memory we're going to focus on the positives in it. But in doing so it takes us out of the present. And it comes back to appreciation. And and and appreciating what you have now. As opposed to worrying and missing the things that you don't have any more.

A: Right. Well and you know there are other things they talked about such as happy people tend to take risks on occasion. So you know a lot of us like to know we're gonna feel good. We like to do things we know we like. And there's nothing wrong with that. And people who are happier overall tend to take risks on occasion. So that they can either go to a restaurant and they'll order something and not know  if they'll  like it. Or they'll go to a concert or play or an experience without really being sure there's anything pleasant for them in that possibility. And so they're always discovering new things. ... They said risk. And also like curiosity. Getting out of your comfort zone is actually a contributor to happiness. But ... in one of the com commentators in the articles that it's a little bit like being comfortable with anxiety. Cause it is a little anxious to do something unknown, whatever it is. I went to-  I've always wanted to go to India. I went to India three years ago. And there's this part of me that was terrified. Cause I went by myself and I'm getting on this plane to fly for thirty hours. And I'm like, I actually have no idea what I'm doing. Like I'm getting on a plane right now. And okay that's what's happen- I only had- I mean I was also just doing ... an unplanned trip. So like I had like my first four days planned. And then I was just gonna  kind of follow my nose.  So.. And and yet at the same time that like there's a way that that anxiety also made the whole thing kind of magical right?

E: Yeah. I mean and and try new things. It doesn't always have to be all about going and doing something completely crazy.

A: Are you  saying that was crazy? Look at your face. Yes you are.

E: Well. And you know what, I mean I I've met plenty of people for which that is crazy. And something they're comfortable with. But there  there becomes this myth that you have to do something absolutely crazy like that.

A:  That's  a fair point. It's also just ordering something you don't normally eat dinner can be considered a        way to push your comfort zone.

E:  And so I think you know I think the key thing there is for people to think about it not in the you know six month sabbatical to a foreign country but also just maybe trying something different. You know maybe ... you're  unhappy in your job. Maybe wild and crazy is look for a new job or even a new career path. Maybe you could find something that makes you feel more fulfilled. You know we end up in jobs where we may have the skills to do it but they may not be filling. And that's a way that you could  I hate to use this terms we just said it's bad to, but pursue a happier position in life by trying something that maybe you're just nervous about. Start a business. Go work for a career that that suits who you are as a person instead of your skill set.

A: Yeah that's a good point. I also note several years ago I was feeling a sense of being  uncertain that I wanted to continue in the position that I was in. And I applied for a few jobs. And I interviewed at a couple places and they were okay. Like they were interesting. And and I was kind of reflecting that if I was gonna take one of them I needed to really apply myself in certain ways to make them work for me. Cause they all had some things that I was gonna have to put some effort into.  And so I thought what if I just take that effort and put it into what I'm doing right now and see what happens. It was just an interesting moment to realize that  if I'm going to have to do that anywhere, I could just do it where I am right now and see how it goes. And it did. It made a difference I found myself  reinvigorated and re- excited about what I was doing. Recommitted. And and it was the process of being willing to like walk away that helped me to realize that I had that. You would think it'd be obvious but it wasn't.

E: Well yeah and again you know that comes down to it. There is a myth that you need to do something big to shake things up.  People feel like you know I'm not ready to make that jump. It doesn't have to be. It could be a little thing just a little ways of looking at your life differently. Applying things about yourself in a different way. So you know again the act of pursuing happiness is pretty futile, realistically. Like telling someone to relax, telling someone to be happy not likely to happen. Taking some steps though, that could improve the situation, that make you feel more fulfilled. I mean some of the most fulfilled people I've ever met are the ones that ... jumped ship on some sort of fruitful career that they were already knee deep in and started a business selling cupcakes or something like that.

A: Well and the the other thing that ... they talked about that you're reminding me that a lot of it is counter intuitive in terms of the pursuit of happiness in some ways is working hard; seeking purpose; enjoying other people's good fortune- that's one that they said most happy people have friends who celebrate with them not just friends who show up for them in need.  That's a big like a big difference.

E: So this actually brings up something that you did mention about the article. And the idea that and to me it kind of struck me in the ... in ways that you can kind of share in somebody's happiness instead of feeling like feeling ... personalizing it or  you know and feeling like maybe your life's not as good as theirs or whatever. And the the the the subject that they brought up that you told me about wasn't my favorite one ... because our our society and culture is not great about this. But you know if somebody meets somebody and they hit it off and you are not currently dating somebody or something. And you don't want them to talk about it but really those people need to talk about it. Like we need to share our happiness with people. And sometimes a good place to be that I've found is, okay my life's rough but I'm gonna gonna listen to what this person's positive experience was and just at least be happy for them. And you know not make it about how I' m inferior or can't compete or you know should feel bad because of not having the luck their having or whatever.

A: Yeah they said that's a really that's really powerful experience actually. It will benefit you ... you will ... you will be even if you're not aware of it you will be buoyed up if you can allow yourself to be happy for them. They will be buoyed up because they got to share it with you. And it ... also gives them something stronger to remember. So when they're facing a bump, they can actually call back that positive experience more easily. And it can be part of a cushion for when they're in a rough time. So it's a really it's a really great thing for everyone involved. They even said this one researcher said that ... the happiest people are ones who celebrate, who are present when things go right for others and whose own wins are regularly celebrated by their friends. And romantic part- partners that fail to make a big deal out of each other's success are more likely to break up.

E: Yep. I I I can guarantee that not feeling like I have cheerleaders around me would hurt. And it would equally be painful for me, this is just my personality, to not be a cheerleader for others so. I d- I can totally see that. And I think in some regards life is a social experience. And that's one of the positive ways that we socialize. So acknowledging  that and understanding that it's necessary you know  may change your approach to it. Instead of being cynical or  deriding about that subject you know when it's brought up maybe just understand that good things can happen to everybody. And celebrating them amongst everybody that's one of the big social gifts we get in this life.

A: Yeah. Well and part of that is also they say you know recognizing sometimes you're gonna feel bad. And don't make a big deal out of it. Not that you don't express it but don't focus on that. And that's the other thing is don't focus on the things that are bad. You know that they said that people who are happy are less likely to notice micro-facial expressions. So if I'm talking and someone has a momentary negative experience and quite likely has nothing to do with what I'm saying right? Like people are always in their heads- often in their heads anyway. Rather than fixating on that, Oh no they made a frown what does that mean? Just not noticing it or letting it go. People who are happier just tend not to notice it.

E: Yeah.  So this week we had planned a shorter show. We just kind of wanted to talk about you know all of that. I think to wrap up kind of our our discussion here the the main thing that I'm taking away from from our offline discussion that we're bringing online is ... I'm planning to really focus on appreciation and enjoying the little things. Such a cliche word but how many of us actually do that? Actually stop and just enjoy the little things you know? ... I can't remember if you said this earlier while we when we were recording or not but what was your definition of happiness. Like it's it's-

A: So I say satisfaction is momentary and then happiness is something that lasts over time.

E: Yeah. Yes  I like that one. You gave another one though and and I'm spacing exactly what it was but essentially it was along the lines of happiness is good health and ... bad memories. A: Yeah  I said in the studio. Like it's it's the quote from this gentleman ... Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer, I'm sure you've heard of him, said Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.

E: Yeah but you know to a certain extent it it is I think the time of year to be thankful and be appreciative and maybe give a little bit. And enjoy the things you get or the food you eat or the things you do like all together maybe that combined experience will give you a little bit of happiness.

A: I hope so. Happy holidays.

E: So we're going to wrap up the show early like I said. Thank you for listening. If you have ideas, feedback, thoughts please find us on social media. BiCurean  on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can always give us a call at 720-507-7309 or email us at podcast at BiCurean  dot com

A: And if you like what we are doing, please write us a review on you're listening platform of choice. Thank you.

E: Thank you.