It’s that time of year again: carols, parties, gifts, familial guilt (for some of us), and the relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy. As much as I love this season, it can also be full of stress that can lessen joy and overshadow family time. Over the years I’ve discovered a few things that really help get me into the holiday spirit in a relaxing way.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, this is the perfect time of year to add a little something new and different to your living space. Whether it’s preparing for Christmas with a tree, wreaths, lights and stockings, breaking out the menorah and dreidels, pulling out last year’s Yule Log or just displaying some tasteful evergreen boughs, holly berries and snowflake ornaments in honor of winter itself, changing your surroundings will just make the season more merry in general. If time is an issue, just do a few additions, like a few scented candles and a nice bouquet of flowers on the table. The change of scenery will give your space and you a new, refreshing energy.
Cook or bake
If you have the time and the talent, baking is the way to go to really feel the jolly rolling in your veins. Besides the satisfaction you derive from creating something wonderful at this time of year, making your home smell amazing has a way of lifting your spirits despite the early darkness outside. Just try these little beauties: salted caramel-stuffed chocolate truffle cookies. Remember that the olfactory sense (smell) is possibly the one most powerfully associated with memory, so the warm aroma of crusty bread or chocolatey goodness can transport you to childhood or happier times in an instant. And the dishes can wait until tomorrow.
Of your time. Of your heart. Of your loose change to the Salvation Army pot at the local grocery store or a local charity. It needn’t be a tremendous out-pouring, it just needs to be sincere. Remember, if you are one of us who shoves relentlessly through December in search of perfect holiday gifts for loved ones, to let a harried mother cut in line, smile at over-worked and under-appreciated store employees, stop and give a few murmured words of thanks for small kindnesses. Feeling thankful and appreciative is one of the quickest ways I know of to feel warm inside.
Take a deep breath on this one because it’s not always easy or comfortable. This is, however, the perfect time of year to tally up in your head all the people who wronged you—perceived or real, on purpose or not—and make the conscious effort to let it go. It’s not for them, it’s for you.
Take some time to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but find five minutes a day or a weekend afternoon during which you can take a break from the hustle and just relax and be yourself. Such a break will recharge your system and give you the energy and calm center you need to make it to January.
What are your favorite things to do to get ready for the holidays? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments!