December is a strange animal—it brings out the highest highs, but also the lowest lows. For many people, December and Christmas time are the most depressing times of the year. If you are dreading this season, why not turn the tables and make something merry and bright out of it? It’s easy to sit and stew in all the reasons you’re sad; but do something different this year, and it just might turn out to be your favorite Christmas yet. Here are 15 ways to bring a little cheer into your holiday season:
1. Decorate cookies.
Plan a cookie-baking soiree at your place, complete with cookies in all kinds of festive shapes, frosting, food coloring, candy decorations and sprinkles. Borrow some kids from friends or family and let them go to town! Giggles are definitely part of the package.
Need inspiration? Try pinterest.com and search “Christmas Cookie Ideas.”
2. Build a gingerbread house.
Whether you make your own from scratch or buy a pre-packaged kit, building a gingerbread house is loads of fun! It offers a different sort of canvas for your inner artíste to show some creativity … and it can be a great group project or contest.
3. Watch a classic Christmas movie.
Sometimes just watching one of the classics has an endorphin effect on us … White Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf … whatever movie makes you think of Christmas the most, locate it and pair it with some popcorn and a holiday beverage of your choice.
Every year, I stay up almost all night on Christmas Eve preparing food for the next day, so I tune in to whichever TV station is playing a 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story and watch it on repeat while I prep and cook—one of my favorite on-my-own traditions!
4. Visit people in the hospital or nursing home.
Being alone in the hospital or alone in a nursing home at Christmas is hard. Ask around to find out if anyone you know has family in a situation like this, and plan a visit! Think of some small gifts to leave with each person you see. If you are outgoing, plan a little entertainment for the visit: puppets, song & dance, reading a Christmas book, etc.
5. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
If you are an animal person, this is a great way to lift your spirits AND help out the community at the same time! Check with local shelters about volunteer spots and sign up! You will get to love on some furry friends and help care for them while they wait for new furr-ever families.
Need help getting started? Try here: https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/volunteer
6. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
There are so many hurting people who feel the pain of failures, rejection, abuse and other issues this season. Making time to love on other people is one of the best ways to mend your own soul. Do a Google search for shelter volunteer information in your area, and go do it! Tasks range from administrative/office work to cleaning, meal service and beyond.
7. Try a new activity.
Never been ice skating? Always wanted to go to that one restaurant? Thought about jogging around that lake? Just do it! Do it on your own, or grab a friend and go adventuring! Make a reservation, put it on your calendar and have some fun!
8. Relive a favorite holiday tradition from your childhood.
What special thing do you remember from your Christmas celebrations as a child? Recreate it for your grownup self! You could even shape a whole evening around this theme and invite others to bring a favorite tradition or experience to share with your group of friends.
9. Create a new holiday tradition.
Breathe a little life into your celebration by adopting a new tradition. Stringing popcorn for the tree, cooking a new dish, caroling around the neighborhood or maybe something totally off the wall—the sky’s the limit here. Be creative and add some personal flavor into your repertoire of festivities this year.
10. Lend a helping hand.
If you look very far, you will find plenty of people around you who could use a little bit of help. Do you have any elderly neighbors? Ask if you can help with something around the house or yard for them. See anything that needs repair? Ask if you can fix it. Notice that someone in your apartment complex is having car trouble? See if you can run an errand for them. See someone on the side of the road with a flat tire? Stop and offer to change it. Open your scope a bit and start looking for opportunities to assist people around you!
11. Work a seasonal job.
Retail stores always hire special staff for seasonal jobs. If you are faced with too much alone time and find yourself sitting around bored, why not apply for a part-time job at the mall or at a Christmas event? A little extra cash and a store discount never hurts during the holidays, either.
12. Trek to a tree farm.
If you are a Christmas-tree person, look up an actual tree farm and make a trip out there! Lots of times, tree farms also have cute little shops with jams and jellies, baked goods and hot cocoa to complete the experience. Even if you end up not purchasing a tree, go for the experience and the fresh air.
13. Go for a drive.
I have found that a good, long drive is very cathartic. It offers plenty of time to think without much input from other sources; it opens my horizons and clears my mind. At particularly lonely and difficult times in my life, I have jumped in the car and just started driving down the highway with no particular destination … and returned hours later with a whole new outlook. What’s even better is when you invite Jesus to ride along and have an extended conversation with him. Try it—you just might be surprised.
14. Grant a wish.
A smorgasbord of options are out there when it comes to granting someone’s Christmas wish. Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, local churches and radio stations who have identified specific people with urgent needs, a single mom you know, an unsuspecting friend … If you are strategic enough, you could plan several surprises for people in your life over the holidays and really make a difference in their hearts.
15. Adopt a family.
I’m sure you know at least one family who had a really rough 2014. Want to do something amazing? Plan an elaborate Christmas surprise for them. Do some recon regarding needs, wants and wishes for each family member; find out clothing sizes, favorite foods, etc. Then get a few others in on the secret with you and plan to knock that family’s socks off with a love bomb! I have been part of love bomb missions for several families over the years, and it is truly my favorite part of Christmas time! Strategizing, hunting, collecting, organizing and setting all the details in place for a big surprise is so much fun—and then seeing the recipients’ response is icing on the cake.
If you are dreading this Christmas, make it about someone else and stop mulling over all the reasons your situation stinks. Infuse a little fun and joy into someone else’s world, and you will find it spilling over into yours!
May your days be merry and bright this Christmas season!