The winter holidays come with a range of emotions. Despite the constant assumption of holiday cheer, not everyone is excited about nor looks forward to this time of year. Our society makes a big deal about being happy in general. Entire industries are built around it. There are no shortage of books, stories, news articles and quotes about how to be happy. Happiness is indeed a great thing and research says it can prolong our lives. But some people (in fact, lots of them) may just not be happy at any given time—for whatever reason. Instead of making space for people to just feel what they feel, we often feel compelled to force them into being happy, or at least pretending to be, which is largely for our own benefit and not theirs.
The assumptions around happiness are particularly intense this time of year. And folks who are struggling with depression, stress, trauma, working holiday overtime hours (especially those in retail or service work) etc. may feel overwhelmed with our constant need to expect holiday happiness and a ho, ho, ho attitude from other people. To be absolutely clear: of course, there is nothing wrong with offering someone joy or well-wishes for happy holidays. That’s just being polite. And you genuinely may mean it. Great. And it’s also important for us to recognize that some people may not be feeling festive right now. And that’s perfectly okay, too. Without explanation, without having to know the reason, without having to shove happiness down their throats—they have the right to experience their range of emotions too.