The holidays present special opportunities to connect with others, to contemplate spirituality, and to help other people, three factors that many studies say increase the odds that a person will feel happy. There are a couple of other factors too: chocolate, and endorphins released by exercise.
The craziness and frantic pace of preparations and shopping, parties, and hosting relatives and friends on top of the daily routine of work and home responsibilities often means Thanksgiving through New Year's goes by in a blur and sadly, oh so sadly, the season is not enjoyed as it should be.
So I began to come up with my own ideas for putting more joy into the holidays:
1. Communicate in writing. Elf Yourself is truly a gas, but the handwritten Christmas card is timeless and special.
2. Make gifts more meaningful. Gift card? Probably a good bet for a teenage gift recipient or someone you know will prefer to choose their own gift, but if you have a special talent you can use to create gifts, put it to use.
3. Do a project with children. One year I made Danish woven heart baskets (perfect for stuffing little gifts in) out of felt, with fabric ribbons to hang them on the tree. They were easy enough for a kindergartner to weave, and we gave these keepsakes to friends, family, and teachers.
4. Get the bulk of your shopping done by December 17th (last day for on-time shipping on many sites) online and then go to the mall to admire decorations and find stocking stuffers. Find a café and order a double chocolate mocha with whipped cream (it’s okay, one won’t hurt).
5. Dare to participate in a holiday 5K run/walk. The weather is never too cold to bond with other crazy people dressed in reindeer antlers and Santa hats shivering and cursing along the route. The payoff is bragging rights and a second double chocolate mocha.