Holiday Depression – Findings from Positive Psychology Residents Need to Know

For most of us, celebrating seasonal holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are a cause for great joy.  For others, these holidays are a cause for great sadness and stress.  This problem has become pervasive enough to earn its own psychological classification – HDS (Holiday Depression Syndrome).  This condition can be severe enough in some people to make them seek professional counselling and psychotherapy.  However, there are some recent findings from the new field of positive psychology residents can potentially use to deal with HDS on their own.

Positive psychology focuses on the study of happiness and optimal human functioning.  One of their findings comes as no surprise – engagement with others is one source of true happiness. According to psychologists in Perth, people who live socially isolated lives are not as happy as people who establish and maintain relationships with others.

The “power of others” pinpoints the causes of the two major forms of HDS – the Christmas Blues and the Post Christmas Blues.

During the holidays, those of us who have few “others” in our lives can suffer.  In a time when everything around us emphasizes family, friends, and being together, the socially isolated are acutely aware of their situation.

Others of us suffer from the withdrawal of significant others at the end of the holiday season.  The decorations are gone, the dinners and parties are over, and now we have only the bills to remind us of what a wonderful time was had by all.

The Christmas Blues for the socially isolated is the more difficult situation.  The holidays offer ample opportunities for those without family and friends of their own to be with others.  Shelters, orphanages, and senior citizen centers all are looking for volunteers to help during that time of year.  However, some of us remain socially isolated by choice and getting out into the community at that time of year is often easier said than done.

For those who suffer from the Post-Christmas Blues, the situation is easier to address, at least in theory.  The cause of the depression in most cases is the withdrawal of joyful opportunities to share and be with others. But where is it written that the spirit of Christmas must come but once a year?

The holidays are as much about anticipation as they are about realization.  We look forward to a neighborhood get-together or Christmas Eve at Grandma’s.

Why wait till next Christmas to have a neighborhood get-together?

Why wait till next Christmas to have a special dinner with family members?

Why wait till next Christmas to give a small gift, albeit something small and less expensive?

If you are alone and had a warm experience visiting a senior citizen center at Christmas, why wait till next year to go back?

This is something very specific we have learned from positive psychology. Perth residents can harness the power of others to improve their own lives.  The others around us are not just there at Holidays; they are there every day of the year.

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