Between the months of November and January, if you ask a friend how he or she is doing, the response is almost always, “busy”, “stressed” or “you know, hanging in there” (at least here in the US). Somehow, holidays meant to focus on thankfulness and redemption are now about rushing, doing, purchasing, and stressing. What if this year you decided to add more joy to your holidays instead of stress?
Ways to Add More Joy to your Holidays
1. Help Others
When our oversized to-do lists already feel like a two-ton brick, taking the time to help others may feel counterintuitive. However, studies show that helping others actually triggers the pleasure center in your brain. Helping others has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety and help people fear more hopeful.
Plus, an added benefit to helping others is that it requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. Stepping outside of our comfort zones is always the first step in embracing diversity.
The minute you step out of your comfort zone, that bubble of comfort you’ve been hiding in pops. Eventually, you will be able to form a new bubble but it will never be the same. You can’t erase what you’ve seen, heard and felt. Your eyes have been opened to a new reality and you become keenly aware of a world beyond your own.
Helping others will not only make you feel better, but it will also help you become a better version of yourself.
Easy Ways to Help Others
- Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk/driveway
- Help someone hang Christmas lights
- Rake leaves
- Clean someone’s home
- Bring someone a meal just because
- Take groceries to a food bank
- Pay for someone else’s groceries at the store
- Donate pet food to an animal shelter
- Babysit for free
- Clean up litter in your neighborhood or local park
- Give blood…unless you pass out like me. Then this one isn’t so easy 😉
- Give extra-large tips
- Use Amazon Smile when ordering online.
2. Have More Fun
Another way to add more joy to your holidays is just by prioritizing fun. Set the serious stuff aside long enough to make someone else smile. They say laughter is the best medicine because it truly can make you feel better. Instead of focusing on how much you can get done today, see how much you can laugh today.
- Go caroling- who cares if you can’t carry a tune. You will make memories and smiling faces.
- Write encouraging notes and plaster them all over town, your best friend’s car, your neighbor’s mailbox, etc. Think of it as TPing with encouragement instead of toilet paper. It will be much more pleasant to clean up.
- Play loving pranks
- Leave cash or a gift card taped to a gas pump or self-checkout
- Hide plastic bags of quarters in the laundromat
- Surprise loved ones with little gifts or notes
- Decorate a room with balloons and streamers, just because
- Keep a gratitude journal. It may not sound all that fun but it will help you focus on the good in life instead of all the bad.
- Have people over for a game night.
- Dress up in ugly sweaters or funny costumes.
- Join the turquoise table movement and sit outside with some cookies and hot chocolate to share with your neighbors.
- Make gifts- they don’t have to be Pinterest worthy. Enjoy the process instead of focusing on the product.
3. Gift Differently
Most of us give gifts this time of year. In many families that means multiple gifts per family member. What if we took the money we would have spent on just one of those gifts to bless someone else? Imagine what an impact you could make.
- Sponsor a child abroad
- Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
- Pay for someone’s layaway
- Surprise a stranger with a gift:
- It could be something as simple as leaving a treat for the delivery drivers!
- Take gifts to the nursing home and stick around to spend time with them.
- Bring coats, hats, gloves, or toiletry items to the homeless.
- Adopt a family through Angel Tree
- Donate toys to Toys for Tots
- Give a gift to a child in foster care through Together We Rise or One Simple Wish
- Gives gifts to your neighbors
If you’re ready to take things up a notch, get your family on board. Take the time to talk to your kids about different living conditions and how, as my friend Elizabeth says, “much of life is just a lottery of geography”.
Imagine how much more meaningful opening gifts on might feel if your children realized gifts weren’t a universal right. What kinds of conversations and realizations might follow? It is never to early to start exposing your child to the world around them.
4. Be Extra Kind
I am sure that you are always kind but what if you upped your game? That sprinkle of extra kindness may be just what someone needs to make it through the day. Here are some ideas to be extra kind and bring more joy to your holidays:
- Send cards to people who could use some extra encouragement like:
- Host a fundraiser (instead of just having a holiday party, ask people to bring donations and donate it to an organization of your choice)
- Turn your Christmas cards into thank you notes. Tell people why you appreciate them.
- Donate your frequent flyer miles to help someone else get home for Christmas.
- Smile and/or compliment strangers.
- Use people’s names
- Let people in front of you in traffic or lines
The holiday season should be a time of love, happiness, and joy. Yet, there are so many distractions that sometimes we have to fight to make that a reality. I hope that these tips can help you add more joy to your holidays.