Less Perfect Turkey, More Cold Turkey On Social Media This Christmas.

Credit: Sentinelha

They keep leaping out at you. Happy couple with a bottle of red in front of a roaring fire. Group of friends posing on 5th Avenue, the ultimate Manhattan Christmas. Not to mention endless shots of cute kiddies sitting in mounds of gift wrap (‘She liked the paper more than the gift LOL!’).

It’s good to see what everyone is doing and the far-flung places they have jetted off to and it goes without saying that social media is great and a big part of most of our lives. A whopping 94% of us use Facebook as part of our daily routine and 78% of us use it for 30 minutes or more every day. It’s a cracking way to link up, keep in touch and share news about your life, but there are drawbacks. There’s Facebook envy, for starters.

One idyllic Christmas picture too many can leave even the most confident of us with a nagging sense of self-doubt. A feeling that we’re not doing enough, not beautiful enough, not happy enough. Okay, so the tree looks pretty cool but did YOU spend all morning making gingerbread decorations with the kids? Your romantic stroll around a Christmas market in Manchester seemed like a one to notch up until you see a group of friends have done the real thing and been on weekend hops to the legendary Christmas markets of Budapest.

According to the cheerily named Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, 5 out of 10 of us envy the amazing experiences others post on Facebook and 1 in 3 of us envy how happy people posting on it seem to be. The Institute recently published a study which found people reported significantly lower signs of stress (55%) when they stopped using Facebook for a week or more.

They took 1095 Facebook users and split them into two groups. Half used it as usual and the other half were forced to go cold turkey and have no access to Facebook. After one week, the group without Facebook reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction. They also reported feeling happier and being less sad and lonely.

On top of this, people experienced an increase in their social activity (in the ‘real world’ not on Facebook) and also increased satisfaction with their social life. Concentration was an issue too. After a week without, the no-Facebookers said they experienced fewer concentration difficulties, were 18% more likely to feel present ‘in the moment’ and that they wasted their time less.

It goes without saying that the Happiness Research Institute wades through a lot of data on happiness and one of the things that often comes up, is how comparing ourselves to our peers can increase dissatisfaction.

‘Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain’, says the Institute’s CEO, Meik Wiking. ‘This makes Facebook world, where everyone’s showing their best side, seem even more distortedly bright, by contrast.’

This time of year can make all of this stuff even more intense, as most of us spend at least some time over Christmas with family, and they can be our harshest critics. Got a boyfriend yet? When are you going to get a proper job? You should get a move on if you want to have kids. Since when did you start drinking mint tea (you have changed). Gosh, do the kids always whine like this? And so on.

And if your self esteem is taking a battering, Facebook can compound it. The researchers noticed that instead of focusing on what we need, we have a tendency to focus on what other people have. ‘Social media is a non stop great news channel’, says the Institute. ‘A constant flow of edited lives, which distorts out perception of reality.’

Realistically, unless a cool sounding research organisation comes knocking on our door, we’re more likely to be photographing our perfect roast turkey than going cold turkey on Facebook. But when shots of the beautiful people start coming in thick and fast, maybe we need to take a step back from time to time and remember Wiking’s words – it’s everyone showing their best side.

And do us all a favour. See it as your social duty to post the odd picture of the sad untouched sprouts, the stroppy toddler tantrum and the bloody tangled tree lights which for the love of God won’t be untangled. If there’s one way to give everyone a laugh and make us all feel good about ourselves, that’s it.

Words by Alexandra Borthwick

Visit Stockholm This Festive Season.

Credit: Stockholm Our Way

Its the festive time, but what to do? How about a weekend getaway to boost your festive mood? There is no better city in the world to choose for a festive getaway than Stockholm in Sweden.

At this time of year its covered in a healthy blanket of white sparkling snow. The city which dates back to the 12th Century is simply beautiful. Known affectionately as the ‘Venice of the North,’ it’s the jewel in the crown of the Nordic lands.

Famous for its museums, universities and art galleries, Stockholm is the most populated city in the region attracting a whooping 11 million visitors in 2013 alone. Picture perfect, with the back drop of its imposing 12th and 13th century architecture, Stockholm is the ideal destination for romantic couples, festive shopping, cultural escapes or just fun with the family.

Stockholm at this time of the year is especially special because the snow-globe setting is sure to warm the coldest of moods. From visiting a Christmas market to enjoying some glogg and ginger bread, bathing under the glow of the beautiful festive decorations, to shopping in its narrow shopping streets, to enjoying a well deserved drink and meal at a bar or restaurant, Stockholm ticks all the boxes and will bring a smile to any face.

Stockholm is easily accessible on foot, bus, train and boat. Taking a reasonable two hours twenty minutes to get there by plane from the UK, and at the equally reasonable price of about £195 there and back, there really is no excuse not to visit Stockholm, even if you have or haven’t been already.

With over 1000 restaurants, 100 museums, a vibrant art scene and distinguished theatres, Stockholm is a truly wonderful city to visit. Spread across 14 islands, Stockholm’s most popular region, its old town is accessible by bridge, walking over the often frozen Lake Mälaren which meets the Baltic Sea in the South East region of the country.

Located just south of the 60th latitude, the number of daylight hours at this time of year is only about six hours. So expect darkness to fall about 3pm. Contrasting with its summer nights which are short, it brings an element of magic, suspense and romance unlike any other city in the world.

With temperatures at Christmas well below freezing and snowing falling on any given day, it’ll bring a smile to your face when you walk along their commercial shopping areas free from snow due to their under pavement heating, while walking further afield wading knee deep in crisp sparkling snow freshly fallen.

Night-clubs, restaurants, cinemas, cafes, casinos, you name it, you’ll find it in Stockholm. Watching men fish salmon from the river, to marvelling at the royal architecture, Christmas lights, smells and sounds; Stockholm holds a certain endearment which will surely bring you festive cheer.

Famous for hosting the Nobel Peace prize, Stockholm boasts a wealth of history going back as far as the 6th millennium. The people are warm and friendly. The streets are well kept, clean and tidy. The spirit is jovial, romantic and inviting. A beautiful city full of beautiful people living beautiful lives and having a beautiful time.

If you are feeling in the mood for something more this festive season! In need of a quick get-away to lift your spirits; Stockholm is your perfect destination.

Don’t be shy give Stockholm a try and remember to wrap up warm!

Words by Matthew Taylor

December 2015: Editor’s Note.

Dear followers,

The days might be long and dark but the positive energy of Christmas is growing stronger as we get closer to the 25th. There is something about Christmas that sparks a light inside of us. It’s a time to celebrate family, love and kindness. The commercialism of Christmas often overwhelms us, we get caught up in Christmas rush, stressing about buying the best presents, organising who will visit who on what day and worrying if we have enough food to feed the family.

The true meaning of Christmas is different for every individual, but to me, Christmas is a time to indulge, relax, be around the people I love and reflect on the year that has passed. Christmas is a special time of year, a time to live in the moment and count your blessings. Gifts are a great way to show your appreciation but Christmas is not a competition to see how many gadgets you can fit inside a stocking or a chance to share pictures on social media of your big pile of presents, Christmas is so much more than that.

Why not create some space in your life this Christmas for gratitude? It’s easy to get caught up in the expectations of what Christmas should be, however, it can be a lonely and emotional time for many people. Think about your elderly neighbour eating their Christmas dinner alone or the millions of homeless people who won’t experience the joy of Christmas this year. When we think of those less fortunate than ourselves, we start to appreciate everything we already have, which is a crucial part of the journey to happiness.

The new year is round the corner and the long list of resolutions will soon be created. Instead of making the same resolution that you make every year – to lose weight, quit smoking or join a gym, why not add a simple, yet achievable one to the list, ‘be more grateful.’ Focus on everything good in your life and be happy. Take life one day at a time and truly love every moment.

Thank you for following us and supporting our message to inspire others with our positive message.

Zest For Life wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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