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How to Extend Holiday Cheer

FRIDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The sudden return to a normal routine after weeks of holiday cheer can cause some people to go into a funk, but an expert outlines ways you can continue the joy and excitement of the holidays year-round.

"A large part of happiness is anticipation. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve and other holidays offer punctuated moments of joy we look forward to for weeks. While the celebration itself may be short-lived, the anticipation of the fun and excitement to come extends the feelings of positivity," Christian Waugh, an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, explained in a university news release.

He offered three steps to have an ongoing sense of anticipation and fun.

First, make plans for a combination of small and large celebrations throughout the year. This can include major vacations, spending a Friday night with friends, watching sports on TV, and personal milestones and achievements.

"Scheduling ahead and preparing appropriately is important," Waugh said. "Advance planning both helps build anticipation and reduces the likelihood of disappointment."

Then, allow yourself to look forward to the fun ahead and feel good about an anticipated positive experience. While there may be some stress involved in planning an event, don't let it overshadow the joy of anticipation.

"Research shows that resilient people are marked by the ability to recognize that stress and excitement can, and likely will, occur at the same time," Waugh noted.

And, finally, don't forget to immerse yourself in and enjoy the moment you've been planning.

"I can't stress enough the importance of actually enjoying the experience as it happens. After spending so much time and energy preparing for something, it can be too easy to let the moment pass and later feel let down that you were too exhausted or distracted to enjoy it," Waugh said.

"Take a deep breath and switch your focus away from the work that led up to the celebration, and forget about what comes next. Have fun. Then start looking forward to playing with that new toy or using your gift card on something exciting," he advised.

More information

The American Psychological Association offers tips to make the most of the holiday season.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, Nov. 18, 2011

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