Why Christmas is (Unknowingly) Making You Unhappy

Ahh Christmas. The time of year when we lie to our children, put on an average of 4lb between the 25th December and New Year and pay for numerous gifts and meals with money we don’t have.

What could be better?

Of course, there is the other side to it. A few days holiday amidst what has been a relentlessly demanding working year, the chance to spend some quality time with loved ones without having to worry about email or your next day at work and quality entertainment on the TV (probably not the case if you live in the UK like me!).

But none of these factors are what I really want to discuss today. You see I want to take a deeper look at Christmas, its implications and pose the question of why we settle for so little.

Selling Ourselves Short

Did you know that the ancient Romans equivalent of Christmas – The Festival of Saturnalia – lasted a full month? During this time their normal, strict social order was turned upside down and businesses and schools were closed so that everyone could join in.

Even the Scandinavian Norse people had it better than us. Their celebration of the Winter Solstice sometimes saw up to 12 days of feasting.

Yet here we are seemingly overjoyed with our measly two days of holiday!    

Something isn’t right. Why are we so happy with so little and don’t we have a right to ask for more?

Getting to the bottom of the hype behind Christmas is not difficult. Culprit number one are the corporations.

Every year, Christmas fever seems to start a little earlier. Adverts are reminding us by late October or early November, so by the time December comes, we’re at a fever pitch of anticipation.

“It’s going to be amazing. A miracle will happen,” is what we’re thinking, but then the day comes and nothing really changes.

Of course, it’s great to open some presents, eat a (potentially) delicious meal and spend time with the ones you love, but are our lives forever altered as a result?

Not really! The enjoyment soon wears off and a few days later we’re back to the drudgery of work.

And this, dear reader, is my point. We’re selling ourselves short!


There’s a great Seth Godin quote about vacations which goes like this,

‘Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.’

His words highlight a modern epidemic that many of us experience – ‘anticipationitis’.

The symptoms are an overly strong focus on future events that are imagined to bring us some form of relief, rest, excitement or escape from the drudgery of our day to day lives. The outcome of catching it is an inability to enjoy the now and feelings of disappointment when the imagined event doesn’t live up to the hype. It usually afflicts us on a daily basis when we anticipate the onset of the weekend and also occurs once or twice a year when we know we have a vacation booked.

It also strikes; you’ve guessed it, at Christmas. And this is why ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ might actually be making you unhappy. Not in the sense that you don’t enjoy the festivities, but in the sense that the system we live in has you caught in a trap. By influencing you into cherishing, and looking forward to, the very few moments when you have complete control over your time, it gets you to overlook the vast majority of your experience when you’re wishing you were somewhere else.

Think about it, if you weren’t given those two days out of seven, or that brief holiday season at the end of the year, then the situation would be utterly intolerable. You would revolt, and band together with other people to set up a system where you all had greater self-determination over how you spent your time.

However, because we are placated to some degree, through holidays like Christmas, it takes the edge off our discontent and we accept the status quo.

This is why I’m writing this cautionary Christmas tale. Not so that you are miserable over the holidays, but so that you start 2016 by giving your future some real consideration.

As Seth Godin said, isn’t it time you, ‘set up a life you don’t need to escape from’? I want to challenge your thinking and get you setting your sights higher than a couple of weeks’ vacation every year, weekends and Christmas holidays.

What about a life where you spend every day doing something you love and never catch yourself longing for the moments when you are free? What about a life where, if you want to spend more time celebrating with your loved ones, then you have enough control over your working hours to enable you to do so?

You may think I’m asking the impossible but there’s nothing chaining us to the way we currently live. All we need to do is question the assumptions that so many people take for granted. We’d soon realise that we have control, both individually and collectively, over the direction of our lives and that if we want something greater, then we can create it.

So enjoy your Christmas, have a great time, but realise that celebration should be a way of life and not a one off event!

Want a FREE Christmas Gift?

Then head over to Joe Barnes’s website Screw the System and download your copy of 50 Reality Changing Insights. He’s also the author of the critically acclaimed Escape the System Now which you can learn more about here.

Joe divides his time between writing, hypnotherapy and tennis coaching and has a passion for helping people to Succeed on their own Terms.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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