Go Ahead, Scroll Your Smartphone This Thanksgiving


Lower Expectations: The Key to Happiness During the Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, many of us find ourselves consumed with stress, anxiety, and high expectations. We strive for the perfect holiday experience, envisioning harmonious family gatherings, delicious meals, and joyful celebrations. However, the reality often falls short of our idealized visions, leaving us disappointed and disheartened. This year, the WSJ’s Life & Work team presents a refreshing perspective on finding happiness during the holidays: lower expectations of yourself and others.

In our quest for perfection, we often place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We aim to create a flawless holiday experience, meticulously planning every detail and striving for Pinterest-worthy decorations, gourmet meals, and extravagant gifts. However, this pursuit of perfection can lead to overwhelming stress and burnout. By lowering our expectations and embracing imperfection, we can alleviate unnecessary pressure and find joy in the simple moments.

Similarly, we often hold high expectations for our loved ones during family gatherings. We hope for seamless interactions, deep connections, and shared happiness. However, family dynamics can be complex, and tensions may arise. Instead of striving for an idyllic gathering, we can choose to accept our relatives as they are, with all their flaws and imperfections. By embracing the messiness and unpredictability of family interactions, we can find contentment in the moments of genuine connection and laughter.

Looking back at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, we find inspiration in the simplicity of the gathering. English settlers and members of the Wampanoag tribe came together to celebrate the harvest. They shared a meal of venison and corn, without the distractions of smartphones or the pressures of creating a picture-perfect event. It was a celebration of gratitude and togetherness, focused on the essence of the holiday rather than materialistic expectations.

Lowering our expectations does not mean settling for mediocrity or neglecting our responsibilities. It means acknowledging the limits of our control and accepting that perfection is an unattainable goal. By releasing ourselves from the burden of unrealistic expectations, we can free up mental and emotional space to appreciate the true meaning of the holiday season.

Instead of striving for a flawless holiday, we can prioritize self-care, set realistic goals, and cultivate gratitude for the simple pleasures. We can focus on creating meaningful moments with loved ones, rather than getting caught up in the pursuit of material possessions or societal pressures. By shifting our mindset and embracing imperfection, we can find joy and contentment during the holiday season.

So this year, as you gather with your family and loved ones, remember the lesson from the first Thanksgiving: lower your expectations, embrace imperfection, and cherish the moments of genuine connection and gratitude. By doing so, you may just find that true happiness lies not in perfection, but in the acceptance and appreciation of the beauty in the imperfect moments of life.

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