What do we really want for Christmas? We want something that will last all year long – maybe all life long. Sure, presents are lovely, and who doesn’t love a warm and stylish scarf, a sparkly ring, or the James Bond 22-disc DVD collection?

But let’s think about the things that’ll bring lasting happiness. According to 225 studies reviewed by psychologists, our happiness level can be changed by the way we live, react to situations and even what we eat. All those things can increase our happiness. So how can we turn those things into gifts for someone else?

  • Well, a study from the University of Michigan found that getting an extra hour of sleep will make people happier than getting a $60,000 raise! So, maybe you give your partner the gift of sleep – by handling some of the morning chores, getting the kids ready for school, or taking action on your snoring, so you’re not waking them in the middle of the night.
  • If you want to give something tangible, choose something like a bike – or cooking classes. Spending money on experiences makes people happier than having possessions. That’s according to the Review of General Psychology. The thrill of a big purchase will fade. But the time you spend together having an experience will last, whether it’s riding bikes together every Sunday, or learning how to make sushi.
  • Finally, how about the gift of being a better partner, friend, or sibling? The anger we hold on to, the stress we take out on the people we love, and the lack of attention we give to others – all has a negative impact, not just on us, but those around us! So, maybe this Christmas, decide that you’re going to tackle one of those negative qualities. You don’t have to make a big announcement at Christmas dinner, just start behaving differently.

One of my favorite analogies is the tennis ball one – when you hit the ball across the net the same way, over and over, the person on the other side returns it the same way, over and over. If you want to change your relationship, start hitting the ball differently. The person on the other side will be forced to react to it differently.

To put that in real-world terms: If you’re a big, ol’ grump every day when you get home from work, your family probably steers clear. How about you come home and embrace your family and ask them how their day was? I bet you’ll get a much different reaction. And that’s something that’ll bring more happiness than anything you could put under a tree.

Lesson Expert

Betsy Chase

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