Holiday rituals are important for mental health especially in the time of COVID


From birthdays to weddings and graduations, this year has seen many personal celebrations cancelled, while communal festivities such as Bonfire Night, Eid and Diwali either haven’t been celebrated or have been more subdued.

So it might feel tempting to downplay Christmas too, especially with concerns that people mixing more freely could lead to a third wave of COVID-19.

However, it will be more important this year than ever before to engage in the celebrations and rituals of Christmas and New Year.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of the season – while keeping to 2020’s limitations – will be very good for our mental health. After a tough year, this might be exactly what we need.

Christmas has important social, cultural and religious functions. For people of all faiths (and none), the Christmas holidays bring people and families together to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the next.

The sociologist Émile Durkheim used the term “collective effervescence” to describe the positive mood we feel when we take part in social activities that bring collective joy and make us feel part of a bigger community.

Durkheim was writing about large religious gatherings, but researchers have argued more recently that this same feeling can be experienced in smaller units when family or friends get together.

We see this collective effervescence at Christmas time. Research has shown that this spirit of Christmas manifests as a multitude of positive feelings and behaviours that are experienced collectively, including greater altruism, goodwill and generosity. This happens to such an extent that some have argued that Christmas cheer could be an emotion in its own right.

Although we can’t do everything we normally would this year, restrictions will be easing over Christmas in the UK and in certain European countries. This means we can, if we choose to, still experience some of this effervescence.

The positive power of ritual
The popular adage that the best part of going out is getting ready – that the journey is more important than the destination – recognises that rituals are important in their own right.

Routines and rituals offer structure and predictability in our lives and perform important psychological functions to manage anxiety. With rates of anxiety soaring in lockdown, anything we can do to manage our mental health is to be welcomed.

Rituals have been described as individual units of action that form a sequence or pattern that is repeated in a particular way, and which are imbued with personal symbolism and meaning. For Christmas, these individual units typically include religious observances, buying presents, parties, pantomimes, carol singing, ice skating, and Christmas markets, not to mention the food and drink that we love so much during this time of the year – mince pies, panettone, stollen, mulled wine.

This year many people put up Christmas decorations earlier than usual to try and lift the general mood. There’s evidence that this will work, as research shows that Christmas rituals specifically can play a role in creating a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.

They evoke memories of other times in our lives when we have gone through the same rituals. Every time we put up Christmas decorations, our brain fires up our stored up festive feelings.

This is why it’s important to maintain rituals associated with celebrations: even if we won’t be experiencing events in the same way, our brains will still respond positively.

Even Christmas smells can evoke memories of past times. Though we’re in completely different circumstances now, faced with these stimuli our brains will make us feel happy by triggering happy memories.

Rituals also play a key role in social cohesion, as those in the UK saw with the “clap for carers” in the summer. When our traditional rituals are disrupted, this challenges the notion of who we are as a social group.

Following a year where we have had so much disruption in our routines and rituals already, and people have reported feeling increasingly isolated, Christmas rituals can offer us a sense of connection again.

Festivities also often highlight the things we have to be grateful for, and this gratitude can also increase our sense of wellbeing. And even if we can’t be with loved ones, spending time catching up on the phone or online can help to boost our mood. Just reminiscing over past happy memories can make us feel happierin the present.

Celebrating wholeheartedly may feel difficult when the celebrations are constrained and many of us have experienced loss, but the rituals associated with Christmas traditions can help us to stay positive.

Celebrations can increase our appreciation for the positive elements in our lives, and will draw upon stores of positive emotion that we’ve built through memory. So go ahead and put up that Christmas tree. Even if there won’t be as many people gathering around it this year, it should still make you feel better.

Relationship with travel satisfaction

Only recently, the travel behavior research community has jumped on the bandwagon of satisfaction research and started to explore the relationship between travel satisfaction and subjective well-being (Bergstad et al., 2011; Ettema et al., 2010; Hansson et al., 2011; Martin et al., 2014; Sirgy et al., 2011). For example, Ettema et al. (2010) built a theoretical framework arguing that participation in activities contributes to subjective well-being and that the positive affect associated with travel has an impact on subjective well-being.

Bergstad et al. (2011) found that the effect of satisfaction with daily travel on affective and cognitive subjective well-being is both direct and indirect. Sirgy et al. (2011) developed a model, which described how positive and negative affects associated with specific experiences of a trip influence tourists’ life satisfaction.

Hansson et al. (2011) found a significant relationship between commuting and health, while Martin et al. (2014) concluded that active travel was correlated with psychological well-being. Therefore, this literature seems to suggest that travel satisfaction is significantly related to subjective well-being.

Well being…..

Since long, subjective well-being, a concept closely related to life satisfaction, happiness and fulfilment has been a topic of research in social and psychological sciences. Subjective well-being expresses people’s cognitive and emotional evaluations of their lives. These evaluations include people’s emotional reactions to events, their moods, judgments of life satisfaction and fulfilment, and satisfaction with different domains of life such as marriage and work (Diener et al., 2003).

Thus, subjective well-being is a multi-dimensional concept that covers many life domains. The concept has been measured using a variety of different scales (Diener et al., 1985; Diener and Suh, 1997). As an alternative to the concept of utility, subjective well-being has been proposed as a measure of individuals’ benefits in a number of different life domains (Kahneman et al., 1999).

People’s satisfaction with different domains of their life thus influences subjective well-being. The effect of satisfaction in a specific domain on overall subjective well-being has been typically explained on the basis of the bottom-up spill over theory of subjective well-being (Sirgy, 2001).

This theory posits that affect related to a consumption experience contributes to affecting satisfaction in specific life domains, which in turn influences satisfaction with life at large (Sirgy et al., 2011). Many scholars advocated this bottom-up approach. For example, Mohan-Neill (1995) predicted life satisfaction using variables such as work satisfaction and satisfaction with personal relationships.

The results indicated that satisfaction with personal relationships is more predictive of life satisfaction than work satisfaction, although both were significant predictors of life satisfaction. Similarly, Oishi et al. (1999) found that value orientation moderates the effects of domain satisfaction on overall life satisfaction.

Dasgupta and Majumdar (2000), using the bottom-up approach, found that satisfaction with material possessions, family life, self-development, and local government administration have a significant effect on life satisfaction of Calcutta residents.

As a final example, Grzeskowiak et al. (2006) concluded that satisfaction with housing influences satisfaction in various other life domains, which in turn affects satisfaction with life. In the context of travel, the spill over theory would imply that high travel satisfaction would contribute to high subjective well- being.

In principle, there may also be an effect of overall well-being on travel satisfaction, which would indicate a top-down approach in the study of subjective well-being in the sense that their overall perspective on life may affect how people feel about specific life domains (see, for example, Diener, 1984; Headey et al., 1991).

Few studies, however, have examined this top-down relationship using empirical data. Abou-Zeid and Ben-Akiva (2011) estimated the effects of overall well-being on commute satisfaction using a structural equations model and found that people who have a high level of overall well- being are likely more satisfied with their commute.

Thus, these studies suggest that an understanding of how domain-specific satisfaction contributes to overall well-being and how overall well-being influences domain satisfaction has been a pertinent topic of research in social sciences and marketing research for many decades. However, the studies in these fields of study have not considered travel satisfaction, even though travel is an important daily consumption and experience.

Knowledge about the interrelationship between subjective well-being and travel satisfaction has only recently accrued since the study of travel satisfaction has appeared on the agenda of travel behavior researchers.

Since the last seven years, transportation researchers have examined determinants and effects of travel behavior (see, for example, Abenoza et al., 2017; De Vos et al., 2016; Yang et al., 2015). The interest in the topic is fast expanding.

Although the rapidly growing number of studies in travel behavior research on travel satisfaction has substantially increased our knowledge about travel satisfaction, limitations of prior research leave open sufficient room for additional research.

In this chapter, we focus our attention on the following relatively unexplored aspects of travel satisfaction in travel behavior research. First, few studies examined the interrelationships between travel satisfaction and overall well-being by simultaneously considering the relationship between satisfaction with other life domains and overall subjective well-being.

The existing partial conceptualisation and analysis may introduce bias in the results, particularly when domains other than travel influence subjective well-being and satisfactions with various life domains are correlated. Thus, in this study, we adopt this more general approach.

Second, prior travel behavior research has predominantly adopted a hedonic view of well-being. According to this view, researchers have equated well-being with hedonic pleasure based on the contention that people’s goal of life is maximizing their amount of pleasure. However, travel and activities during trip also allow people to achieve purpose and meaning of life.

This so-called eudemonic well-being has been under-researched in travel behavior analysis. Thus, rather than focusing on a specific view of well-being, different views were entertained in this study.

Third, personality traits may influence the degree of experienced travel satisfaction and responses to travel satisfaction scales. Diener and Lucas (1999) argued that the strong influence of personality is seen as one of the most replicable and most surprising findings in subjective well-being research.

In fact, the correlation between subjective well- being and personality such as extraversion and neuroticism is stronger than correlations with any demographic predictor (Lucas and Fujita, 2000; Richard and Diener, 2009; Steel et al., 2008).

Personality may capture structural response patterns of individuals. However, personality traits have been largely ignored in studies of travel satisfaction. Thus, in the current analysis, we included personality scales in the measurement and analysis to allow for personality traits effects moderating the relationships.

Thus, this chapter first examines the mutual dependency between travel satisfaction and subjective well-being relative to satisfaction with other life domains, while controlling for personality traits and selected socio-demographic variables. To analyze the direct and indirect relationships between these constructs, a structural equation model is estimated. Furthermore, this chapter formulates and estimates a latent class structural equation model.

It assumes that the co-dependent relationships between domain satisfaction and overall life evaluation vary between latent classes. In that sense, the latent class structural equations are similar in idea to the latent class models that have been widely applied in transportation research. Latent classes are identified that differ in terms of the parameters of the kind of model that is estimated.

Source: The Conversation


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