“I finished by saying that it struck me that all the ethical systems I was discussing were after the fact.
That is, that people act as they are disposed to, but they like to feel afterwards that they were right and so they invent systems that approve of their dispositions.”
“Christmas is like candy; it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.”
Richelle E. Goodrich
This is about business and also about “the post-Christmas let down”.
What they have in common is what someone once called “happiness hangovers.” I imagine any of us in the business world have felt this after a big meeting or some big trade show or some big thing we have prepared for and had some element of ‘showtime.’
That’s the same kind of funk we fall into after Christmas.
There are a couple of reasons this happens. One scientific and one mental.
The dopamine let down. Scientifically we juice ourselves up with dopamine in order to ‘meet the moment.’ Think of this as the feeling you get every time the email notification on your phone goes of — every 15 seconds for almost 12 hours straight. Each ‘email has arrived’ notification sends a quick dose of dopamine to the brain, we get jolted <love the high> and then immediately receive another. When we are focused on this specific goal we get the rush of dopamine flowing through our brain and when the goal is achieved your body naturally reduces the levels of dopamine.
The body rebalances itself. The dopamine high goes from high … to low. Then finally normal <assuming there is something normal>.
Bottom line result? We feel bummed. We feel drained. This is the science version of ‘let down.’
The positive feelings let down. According to psychologist Gary Stollak, psychology professor, most people have a “happiness set point.” Let’s call that a “5” on the self happiness meter.
Therefore when we get up for something, and it concludes satisfactorily, we rise to a high. Our happiness meter shifts up to 10 <maybe 11 if you are a Spinal Tap fan>.
Unfortunately, your happiness meter balances out. That is partially why your happiest highs are often followed by depressed lows. The worst part of this aspect is what we fill the empty space , which happiness used to hang out in, with doubts, questions, regrets, what ifs, whatever else we could add in that diminished the true happiness and high.
Bottom line result? We go high, we go low and, hopefully, normalize.
Regardless. Suffice it to say, post Christmas, post meeting, post whatever, we are dealing with “it’s over.”
So this year when you sit back with the realization that Christmas is over just take a moment and think about how you (and all of us) deal with the happiness hangover.
Leave the tree up.
Leave the lights up.
Maybe still play the music.
Retell the highlight moments.
Replay portions in meetings.
Gather to relive aspects.
As mentioned upfront in this piece, we continuously try to invent things that approve of their dispositions.
We hate to let it go even though our body is telling us we should.
And maybe that is what hurts us the most. Our bodies have left it behind and yet we continue to try and stuff our body & minds with the trappings of “what was” (or, worse, try and make up for how expectations where not met).
We all do it.
And most of us do it unconsciously.
Is it really bad for us to do it?
Well. Research has linked the let-down of perceived stress with an increase in flare-ups of pain and other ailments. One study found that people experience more panic attacks on weekends, and a 2015 study from Taiwan found that holidays and Sundays have more emergency room admissions for peptic ulcers than weekdays do. A 2014 study showed migraine sufferers, in times of stress, didn’t impact migraine occurrence, but a decline in their perceived stress from one evening entry to the next entry was associated with increased migraine onset over the following six to 18 hours <they called this a “let-down headache”>
All that said.
The day after Christmas, Christmas is done, but still not completely gone. And just as we do with big work events … we are dealing with the ‘let down effect.’ And while we hang on relentlessly to the trappings even though the event is done and gone at least now you know there are real scientific and psychological reasons behind we are so silly.
Happy Happiness Hangover.