Contrary to what we might think, it is the small annoyances in our lives that have a greater negative impact than do major events. In her book The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky describes why this is so.
According to her research, when a major event happens we tend to get motivated to quickly overcome the event. Additionally, we look to others for help and support more so than we would for minor annoyances. Furthermore, we conduct increased cognitive (learning & understanding) activity in our brain after a major event such as rationalising why the event happened, what was the reason for it happening if there was one, looking on the bright side of the event, and so on.
With smaller annoyances, we tend to try and dismiss the event as insignificant, trivial, and easily moved on from. We often try to ignore the event, or think that we did so, yet later that day/evening the annoyance returns to our thoughts. We also don’t tell anyone about what happened for fear that it won’t mean anything to that person or that they may ridicule us for getting hung-up on such a little thing.
When we hold onto any negative event in our head, the thoughts of it become exaggerated due to something termed as catastrophising. It’s our brain's way of expanding the danger to bring clarity so that we can fix the issue. Unfortunately, when we catastrophise we create a reality that doesn't exist.
If the annoyance has been and gone we are left with only two options; try and dismiss it or talk to someone about the annoyance to bring balance to our thoughts. We know that trying to dismiss something that is playing on our mind generally doesn't work so we are left with talking to someone about it. The problem with doing so is that the person we are telling might say ‘You need to put a bridge over it’, or ‘Just move on’.
There is a third option that you may wish to try - “Run to the fire” - is a mantra I coach. Bring the annoyance to the fore as it occurs. Research suggests that for the majority of us, we should deal with little annoyances at the time. The old adage of ‘not sweating the small stuff’ has now been largely dismissed, particularly so if the ‘small stuff’ is playing on our mind.
So, when things don't go as planned this holiday season, 'run to the fire'., ensuring firstly that you are in control of your emotions would be my advice.