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It’s that time of year again: How to really enjoy the holidays

It’s that time of year again: How to really enjoy the holidays

By: David R. Yowell, PhD

The 2020 holiday season is upon us. Whether we like it or not, the holidays can bring mixed feelings. There may be excitement, memories of enjoyable times, but also feelings of stress. Preparing for the holidays can bring up expectations for how everything should “look” to the outside.

Materialism has been studied and has its pros and cons. The American Psychology Associate defines materialism as putting a high priority on obtaining money and possessions, as well as on image and popularity, which are almost always conveyed through money and possessions.

The holidays can often bring up thoughts about decorations, what food to prepare, and how everything should look. Will the appetizers be enough? Will the turkey come out right? Will everyone like the table setting? Do we have the right schedule of events planned for everyone?

Of course, this may look different in 2020…

Research tells us that we are more prone to materialism when we receive countless messages, like social media advertisements, that encourage these values. We value materialism more if we feel insecure or threatened.

This drive does not have to be all bad. There are positive aspects of wanting to pursue materials to meet our needs. It stimulates economic growth, tax revenue and may help motivate us to achieve and compete, which can lead to feelings of accomplishment.

There are the downsides as well. Materialism is linked with people reporting lower levels of general well-being, lower positive interpersonal behaviors and worse academic achievement. Whether we like it or not, research does tend to show that the more we watch television, the more susceptible we may become to materialistic values. So what happens during the holidays?

A large group of studies has shown that there is a negative relationship between materialism and general well-being, and this tends to be true across all kinds of groups of people and cultures. The more people expressed materialistic values, the more they also reported unpleasant emotions, depression, anxiety and physical health problems. So why is this? One theory is that these values are not consistent with some of our basic psychological and emotional needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid

Source: Wikipedia

American psychologist Abraham Maslow believed we all have a hierarchy of needs as human beings. First, we need food, water and shelter. Next, we need to feel safe. As human beings, we also need to feel like we belong, that we are loved, have accomplishments, feel good about ourselves, and feel connected to others. If we focus too much on the materials and making things “perfect,” this can cause more stress and conflict in our lives.

So what can we do?

We can decide to enjoy the food and decorations, connect with our loved ones and give thanks for the things we have. Even with everything going on in 2020, these values are within our control. People also report better holiday seasons or “merrier” Christmases when they include a faith or spirituality component as part of their holiday.

Say a prayer or meditation, practice thanking a particular person in your life or something you value in the relationship, and include this as part of the celebration. These are the things that can make the holidays more enjoyable.


Kasser, T. (2014, December). What Psychology Says About Materialism and The Holidays. American Psychological Association.  Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/12/materialism-holidays

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not as medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding counseling or mental health, please contact Psychology & Counseling to make an appointment.

At Psychology & Counseling, we offer counseling and mental health assessments. Following diagnosis, we work with you to determine the best course of treatment and counseling for you. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (601) 261-1650.

Garner Leverette


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