In the holiday season’s flurry of shopping, gift-giving, parties and celebrations, it’s easy for the joy of the season to be lost in heightened anxiety and depression. Despite the recession, we need to remember: Christmas is a reason to be happy.

With so many families struggling with economic uncertainty this year, the seasonal blues can be threatening. Many have coped with the loss of a job or financial instability in the past year, and that monetary strain is bound to affect gift- buying, party-hosting and other holiday activities. Focusing on the meaning of the holidays can help ward off depression and anxiety brought on by the season?s fiscal demands.Psychiatrist Waguih William IsHak says, “Keeping perspective on the purpose of the holidays is key. Remember that this is a time to express appreciation, love and togetherness, and that doesn’t have to mean spending the big bucks.

“The season offers many opportunities for joy and celebration. The challenge is to acknowledge and address the potentially negative aspects of the season beforehand. By being flexible, dealing with the here and now, having a sense of humor and trying to be as compassionate and forgiving as you can, it is possible to have a happy?and rewarding?holiday season.”

Some of his tips: Remember that there is no ideal or model for a perfect holiday. Feel free to create your own unique way to celebrate, Don?t lose sight of the meaningful moments of the season. Look for them, and be optimistic that you will find them. Consider volunteering or making a donation to a worthwhile cause. Participating in something meaningful during the holidays can help fight the blues.

Happiness can be measured?but not bought. Those are two observations made by researchers as they studied well-being from the scientific perspective?sociological, biological, genetic and psychological.

Age, genetics and a sense of purpose are significant factors in happiness. Money? Not so much. Poverty is not conducive to happiness, but once basic needs are met, income levels don?t change life satisfaction much.

Some other highlights of scientific happiness research: Midlife crisis: This plunge is real, no matter where you live or what your circumstances. According to a study of about 2 million people in nearly 80 countries, mental distress peaks at midlife. In the United States, this typically happens for women at around age 40 and for men at around age 50.

Golden years glow: Contentment swings up later in life. People in their 60s and 70s tend to be as satisfied as younger people. No one knows for sure what causes the upswing. It could be acceptance of weakness, more maturity or more appreciation for life as friends and loved ones die. And, happier people may live longer, affecting the data?so if you’re middle aged and miserable, just WAIT awhile!

The really good news is that we can all change?something we all need to remember during this holiday season.

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