Many people approach the holidays with great anticipation only to be hit with the realities of planning celebrations, buying gifts, decorating, cooking and playing moderator to maintain civility at the dinner table. Then there’s the added tension that goes with wanting to create a magical holiday experience for all those around you.
Fortunately, there are ways to stay happy during the holiday season and beyond. You just need to work at it a little to radiate a sense of joy that will spread to those around you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Helping others can have the added benefit of making you feel good. Even as the economy benefits some, others are still struggling. No one wants to go hungry or be alone especially during the holidays.
Helping others can be truly gratifying because you immediately see the impact you are having. Bringing your children into this holiday happiness project can show them at an early age how good it feels to help others.
- Volunteer at a shelter, food bank or food caravan.
- Invite someone who is alone into your home for a holiday meal.
- Visit a nursing home and bring some holiday cheer with you (decorations and holiday cards can go a long way!)
- Donate. Consider going through your children’s toys together to find unused toys to donate to kids-in-need.
- Pay it forward. Paying it forward by paying a highway toll for the person in the car behind me always brings a smile to my face, as does paying for the coffee of the person behind me in line at the local coffee shop. Often, the beneficiary of this form of kindness will turn around and do it for the person behind them, so the kindness and happiness spread!
- Be thankful. You can spread more joy by handing out notes to your coworkers telling them how much you appreciate them and enjoy working with them. Handwritten notes are still a thing (I refuse to accept that they are not) and this idea will bring smiles and bright rays of sunshine to your office.
- And here’s an easy one — if you are sick and can work from home or take a sick day — please do so. You’ll avoid spreading the viral misery to your colleagues, and that is something that certainly qualifies as helping others.
Get Up and Move!
If you normally work out, the holiday season is definitely not the time to stop. Exercise improves both your physical and mental health, even if it’s just for a short time. If you don’t normally work out — consider taking a walk or take a 30-minute break during the day for yourself — this can make a big difference in your overall happiness and outlook on life. And remember, shopping at a mall rather than sitting on the couch and shopping online counts as "getting up and moving"!
Agree to Disagree…
Don’t dread the dinner table! The holidays can be a time when family members with opposing views on controversial issues come together to break bread, and those opposing views can lead to strife. Agree to disagree before you even sit down and then talk about something less controversial!
Share something new that happened during the year. Maybe someone picked-up a new hobby — ask them about it! It could be something you’ll end up pursuing yourself. You can even plan some conversation starters beforehand, so you’re ready to refocus the conversation in case things get dicey.
Here are a few TED talks to help you be a better communicator during the holidays and beyond:
Engage in Some Guilt-Free “Me Time”
- Plan something fun for the coming year now. Researchers have found that the anticipation of your next trip will bring you more happiness than the trip itself. The earlier you plan the trip, the more time you will have for anticipation-happiness, and it’s always fun to surf the web looking for great places to visit.
- Sign up for a class you’ve wanted to take. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to meditate, act, sing, dance, or make gourmet pastries (or cheese!). Do a little web surfing, and you could discover a whole new world of opportunity and fun! You’ll keep your brain sharp at the same time…always an added benefit.
- If you enjoy reading, you could join a book club, too. What a great way to meet new people and have thought-provoking discussions that enrich your life.
Approach Gift-Giving Strategically
…and by “strategically,” I mean get something for yourself, too! Get a massage, take an exercise class you’ve been dying to try, or take a week off from the mop and vacuum and hire someone to clean your house — treat yourself! And the Chicago Tribune has an idea for a gift you can give yourself that won’t cost you a penny — the gift of less time with your phone and more engagement with your life. You deserve it!