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Learning to Make Your Holidays Wonderful!

PC210242I was a psychology major in college, and I love finding out everything about how our minds work. Of course I study education and learning, but I also read all I can get my hands on about human behavior and emotions. Why do we do what we do?…and how can we do better and be happier?

Lots of people figure that psychology isn’t a “real” science, or that it’s just “common sense.” But, within the past few decades psychology has joined forces with fields including neuroscience, medicine and economics to produce tons of data-based, factual information, much of which is extremely helpful, even life-changing, not to mention counter-intuitive and even wacky.

As Dan Ariely’s fascinating and humorous book explains, we are Predictably Irrational.

For example, as you plan for a wonderfully memorable holiday season, Daniel Kahnemann’s findings should come in handy: People best remember experiences from the beginning or the end of an event.

This means that if you’re planning a vacation, or a meal or a party, schedule the experiences you want folks to cherish at the beginning or end. (If it’s a meal, prepare an amazing appetizer and a fabulous dessert; open the best Christmas present first or save it for last; on vacation, plan for a special final day…etc…)

You can use this same strategy throughout life to enhance your own pleasure and store up more wonderful memories for the future.

Also, Barry Schwartz explains that, counter-intuitively, too much choice decreases our pleasure; we agonize so much over what we’re NOT doing, whatever options we DIDN’T choose, etc, that we fail to appreciate whatever it is we selected

People do, of course, enjoy some choice. The best plan seems to be to narrow down options so folks have two or three. Ice skating or bowling? is a happier choice than What do you want to do today?

All three of these psychologists are fabulously entertaining, down-to-earth, charming speakers, and I hope you’ll check out their TED talks for more insights into how to make your holidays, and life in general, easier and happier:


photo of one of the many amazingly decorated homes in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn]

Learning to Make Your Holidays Wonderful!

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2013). Learning to Make Your Holidays Wonderful!. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Dec 2013
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