It’s nearly impossible to make it through a day in December without hearing that this is — or should be — the most wonderful time of the year. I wonder though, how many people we pass on a daily basis that think it’s the most difficult and lonely… maybe we even feel that way.
The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. Add to those the possible recent loss of a loved one, or the sheer feeling of inadequacy many experience this time of year, and it’s no wonder this perhaps isn’t the most wonderful time of year for many people we cross paths with on a daily basis.
But does it really have to be that way?
I’ve found that one of the best ways to break stress and depression is to get out of myself. Reaping what we sow is pretty much accepted as a rule of the universe so why not put it into practice during the holidays?
If you’re lacking holiday cheer, give it away and I bet it comes back to you pressed down, shaken and overflowing.
There are many simple things you can do in these few days before Christmas that can boost your holiday cheer as well as those around you. If you need some ideas, here are 8 that are inexpensive and wont take too much time.
8 Simple Ways to Boost Holiday Cheer
1. Write and send some cards. Receiving holiday cards is truly heart warming, I love it. But when was the last time you received a handwritten card — and I mean more than just the signature? Handwritten letter’s are near extinction and during the holidays cards have been mostly replaced by photo postcards — I like getting those photo cards by the way. So get 10 cards, choose some close or old friends that you have an address for, and fill up the card with some heartfelt words. Your cheer level will increase and that will probably be the best card your friend receives in the next week.
2. Donate to the local food bank. The idea here is to spread some cheer and spend a bit of time doing it, to get out of yourself. When was the last time you cleaned out your pantry or cupboards? Well, now is the perfect time. Take some time to clean them out and package up edible items for the local food bank. Your effort will boost your cheer, make you feel better about your home and you will anonymously help someone out.
3. Buy coffee for a stranger. This doesn’t take much time if you do it once. But if your feeling really down you could actually plan a few stops throughout the day — mission style. Head to your favorite coffee shop, grab your favorite drink and offer to pay for yourself and the person behind you. I’ve actually had this happen to me and not only was it a great surprise, it set me on a quest to anonymously brighten someone else’s day.
4. Support the local women’s shelter. Unfortunately there are too many people that will spend the holiday season fearing for their life. Take some time and build some gift packs for your local shelter. You would be surprised how some simple toiletries and possibly simple gifts for children can bring some cheer where none exists. A simple search for your local shelter will probably result in a page of items they can use. If you’re in Napa, here is a link to Napa Emergency Women’s Services.
5. Leave a nice tip. I have never met a waiter or waitress that was wealthy and was only working during the holidays for the exercise. Most of the servers I know work holiday shifts just to make ends meet. An extra $10 – $20 added to the usual tip will certainly bring some extra holiday cheer.
6. Share some warmth. Unless you live in a warm climate, the holidays usually mean cold weather. Take a couple hours and hit the local goodwill store in search of warm coats and blankets. Better yet, take friend with you and multiply the cheer factor. Take the warm items to the local homeless shelter, or if your town is like mine, you can find those in need of warmth around town. You just might be the warmest thing to happen to the recipient all year.
7. Break some bread. There are many people that will spend the holidays alone. If you know someone that will be alone this season, invite them over for a meal. Planning and preparing the meal will get you out of yourself and sharing the meal will boost cheer for both of you.
8. Visit a veterans or nursing home. Some of my most profound memories of holidays from my younger years are visiting the veterans hospital with my 4-H group. Each year we would package up some treats and spend an afternoon just visiting with the residents, listening to their stories and sharing our own.
Two years ago my grandfather was in hospice just before Christmas. I took my guitar in to play some music and try to ease his passing. When a nurse heard me playing she asked if I could go out and play for everyone, it was the highlight of their day and mine as well. I could only fumble through a few songs at the time but it was enough to boost everyone’s cheer… you don’t have to be good, just present.
Simple actions can add cheer to the world around you. I promise you will boost your own cheer level too.