Could 2020 be the winter of contentment?
Updated: Nov 10
When lockdown 1.0 happened in the UK, at least it was in Spring. Mother Nature showed a lot of compassion. The weather was great for the time of year, which certainly helped a lot of us to cope.
Roll on 8 months, and with lockdown 2.0 we face similar restrictions, but with the added gloom of short days and grey weather.
That doesn’t feel good.
And in response to that, there has been a lot of talk of putting Christmas decorations up early to cheer us up.
Of course, go for it, if you think that will make this period better for you.
However, I am going to urge a little caution in getting into the festive spirit too soon.
The perilous pursuit of happiness
That caution is grounded in the risks of instant gratification, which is a widespread wellbeing problem in the modern world. In a world of 24/7 connectivity, next day delivery and on-demand entertainment, we are getting too dependant on getting our dopamine fixes QUICK!
And that’s not always a good thing.
When we pin our hopes for happiness on the next fix, we get into a spiralling habit of seeking things to get that short term hit, but then being disappointed when the hit wears off and having to seek the next. That may sound like the dramatic life of a drug addict (and it is), but it is equally true when we use consumerism (buying stuff to make us happy), food (sugar, carbs, alcohol and caffeine are the big ones here) or online gratification (craving those “likes”) to MAKE US HAPPY.
It simply isn’t sustainable. And sadly, it doesn’t make us happy, however hard we try or persist.
Rather than striving for short term happiness, there is an argument that it is better to practise long-term contentment. That means learning to be satisfied with what you have right now, and learning to experience the joy of anticipation.
Don’t peak too soon
Which leads me back to my original point – what is going to be the long term effect of putting your Christmas tree up in early November?
It might well cheer you up briefly, but can its effect last 6-7 weeks? Especially when December is sadly likely to bring other disappointments this year; no Christmas markets, parties, carol concerts, lights-on events, school nativities etc etc.
These gaps will be very apparent when you are craving that next fix because the effects of your decorations have worn off. There is a significant risk that will actually leave your Christmas feeling very unfulfilling.
So, why not save the fairy lights for December. Instead, try to find pleasure in anticipating Christmas - like the pleasure of looking forward to a holiday – make lists, get planning , research presents etc.
And, rather than bringing forward the realisation of that Christmas anticipation, find contentment in what you already have now:
It is still Autumn – get outside and enjoy the colours and beauty of this time of year
Go all Danish and embrace the Hygge in your life – make the most of lockdown to snuggle down; reading, watching movies, rediscovering a forgotten hobby etc
Catch up - life almost went back to normal for a few months, what jobs have built up on your to-do list in that time? Use this quieter period to catch up on life admin, have a clear-out, get the garden winter-ready, organise your photos etc
Reach out to friends and family – you don’t have to resurrect those Zoom quizzes (unless you really want to!), but stay connected with people whose company makes you feel good.