Psych up for the holidays: Lessons from Christmas movies and television specials

In this article, I discuss some important lessons Christmas movies and television specials offer to enhance your life.

The Christmas holiday season has long been one of my favourite times of the year. Having some time off to relax and spend time with family and friends sharing good food and drink makes this a special time of year for many people.

An additional reason I enjoy this season is that I get to watch my favourite Christmas movies and television specials. As a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I have a special affinity for a select few of these programs because of the practical lessons they provide to viewers. In this article, I will discuss these programs and the important lessons they give to viewers.

It’s a Wonderful Life

In this movie, a suicidal man is shown by an angel what the lives of people he knows would be like had he never been born. The man discovers that these people’s lives would have been much worse had he not been in their lives.

Lesson: When you need a boost to your self-esteem, consider what the lives of those around you would be like had you not been there for them.

Miracle on 34th Street

This movie is about the power of dreams and imagination. It is about a mother and her daughter who do not believe in Santa Claus or anything else that they either cannot observe directly or have incontrovertible evidence to support. Over the course of the movie, they both realize how much more fulfilling their lives are when they use their imaginations and dreams to focus on things that may not necessarily be rooted in rationality.

Lesson: Add passion and excitement to your life with activities which allow you to dream and imagine in addition to attending to your present-day activities and obligations. For example, if you’ve dreamed of writing a book, playing in a band or acting in movies, pursue these goals in your spare time. Doing so will add passion and excitement to your life as you become absorbed in the process of pursuing your dream.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This Christmas cartoon classic dramatically displays the findings reported in Dr. Sonja Lyubormirsky’s book The How of Happiness—that having close and fulfilling relationships is a much more important factor in being happy than is amassing ‘toys’ of various kinds. As the lyrics from one of the special’s featured songs read, “Christmas day will always be, just so long as we have we.”

Lesson: Take time to nurture and enjoy your close relationships on a regular basis. If you do not have enough of these relationships, take steps to cultivate them including possibly working on this goal with a psychologist.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

An obvious reason for me to recommend this second animated classic is the scene in which Charlie Brown pays 5 cents for psychiatric advice from Lucy. However, more important is the story’s message that we often lose sight of the spiritual elements of our lives amid rampant commercialism.

Lesson: Take time to enhance your spiritual health in whatever formal or informal ways which are a fit for you and which add meaning, enjoyment and fulfilment to your life.


This 1951 film adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol stars Alastair Sim as the miserly, miserable and antisocial Ebenezer Scrooge. Several ghosts visit Mr. Scrooge during the night to warn of the path to disaster on which he is traveling. When he finally gets the message and realizes the horror of his predicament, he is worried that it is too late to change his ways. His anxiety turns to jubilation when he discovers that there is still time to start behaving in a better way.

Lesson: Even if you’ve struggled with issues for a long time, it’s never too late to take steps to address them.

May you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday,

Dr. Pat

2016-11-09T12:03:42+00:00 By |Categories: Anxiety, Depression, Psychology, Relationships, Self-Esteem|

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