The holidays are often stressful. Thanksgiving is usually a time for families to gather together and give thanks, and focusing on gratitude is always healthy.
However, it is quickly followed by the hustle and bustle of December. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another holiday, the pace often becomes frantic.
Here are three strategies to help you add more joy to your holidays.
Keep focused on family and friends, and away from shopping. Recognize that retailers (brick and mortar stores as well as online sites) are encouraging you to shop, shop and shop some more. This often entails spending more than you had planned.
Getting a large credit card bill in January is not just stressful. It can derail your hard work at being financially responsible all year long. Starting 2018 without a large credit card bill is a great reward. Planning ahead is the key.
Think about what gifts you want to buy. A journalist told me a story several years ago. She always worked hard at buying her daughter and grandchildren lots of gifts at Christmastime, even though she lived frugally.
One year in September she asked her daughter and grandchildren if they could name one gift she had given them the prior Christmas, and they could not. She decided at that moment to drastically reduce her gift buying and focus on experiences with her family.
If you want to buy a gift for special loved ones, think about what would make them happy. Perhaps buying tickets for an upcoming concert, or putting a note in a card that says you will spend a day at the zoo or botanical garden together next spring would be appreciated. A trip to the zoo will result in far more laughter and memories than buying a traditional gift. Consider a gift card to a bookstore or a coffee shop, or setting a date to meet for lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant in early 2018.
Set your budget and stay within it. Psychology research tells us that spending time with friends and family is the number-one way to become happier, so focus on your time with your loved ones rather than on “things.”
If you typically buy for too many relatives, announce that you are cutting back this year. Chances are, your relatives will be thrilled that you led the way. Inform your friends and family that you want to take the focus away from materialistic things, and you want to do something special together instead.
How many social events do you want to attend? If social events stress you out during the holidays, say “no” to some of them. Take time for yourself. Eating healthy food, getting regular exercise and enough sleep, and having some time to relax will make the holidays far more enjoyable than trying to cram too much into each day. Save time to sit down with a good book.
If you buy fewer gifts this year, you will have fewer gifts to wrap. When you consider decorating for the holidays, are there ways to simplify the process? Simplify the meals you prepare during the holidays. Look for every way to simplify.
Rituals are very rich. They are often passed down from generation to generation. They may be religious in nature, such as attending a church service on Christmas Eve, or lighting a candle on a menorah each night during Hanukkah. But rituals do not need to be based on religion or spirituality. In fact, you can create special experiences and new traditions.
Spend a morning baking cookies with family members and friends one day in December. After baking, the cookies can be packaged with holiday ribbons, providing the added benefit that everyone goes home with several types of cookies to give as gifts.
Or set a theme for a meal, such as asking all attendees to bring a dish you remember from your childhood. (I would bring my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls.) If everyone brings dessert, that’s OK. Share family stories from years past. Laugh about funny stories. Enjoy songs together.
Perhaps you decide to announce to your family that you will set aside several hours each weekend day for rest and relaxation. In Spain and Italy, folks enjoy taking a siesta most days, and the concept of the Sabbath in many religions would be a wise addition to our hectic routines.
Consider volunteering at a local charity with your family for a day. Or go for a hike in the mountains, or drive to a nearby town. Remember the adage “less is more.” Planning ahead, simplifying and creating special experiences with family and friends can add more joy to your holidays.