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Ways to Avoid Holiday Depression and Find Joy

Summary: Maybe you always feel a little blue around the holidays. Or maybe it’s this crazy year that’s deflating your celebratory spirit. Either way, we could all use a boost right now. These five ideas will help you make the most of an unusual holiday season and avoid holiday-related depression.

Ways to Avoid Holiday Depression and Find Joy

It’s going to be harder for many of us to get into the holiday spirit this year. Holiday depression is a real thing, but the holidays are coming nonetheless. And I feel the need – responsibility, even – to gather and spread as much gratitude, warmth and joy as I can in the coming months despite the challenges we face.

I’ll be the first one to recommend you give yourself lots of space, self-care and compassion when you’re feeling down. But it’s equally important during times of crisis to deliberately seek out moments of comfort and joy. We need the boost they give us, and those in our circle benefit as well. 

Here are five tips to keep this unusual holiday season joyful and meaningful.

Invest in evergreen joy.

Creating photo albums can be a great way to avoid holiday depression

Activities that bring you joy now and in the future are a “win-win”. Examples include:

  • Curating photos or momentos. This is a great way to revisit fond memories of time with family and friends even if quality in-person visits are on hold for now. The finished product (pictures collected in a frame, a scrapbook, or a digital album you can share) will bring you joy in the months to come, or can be given as gifts to others. 
  • Making something beautiful for your home. If you love to create, invest in projects that you’ll enjoy making, and then using, once you’ve finished. Some ideas include making your own candles, knitting a cozy throw, or decorating your own picture frames to display pictures of favorite trips, family and friends, or a beloved pet. These projects also make good gifts.
  • Plan holiday gifts that keep on giving. Consider gifts that will give recipients joy for months to come, not just when initially opened. Project kits come in all varieties and can provide kids and adults alike many hours of entertainment. Consider giving a monthly gift subscription of flowers, wine, or coffee and tea. Monthly magazine and book club subscriptions are great for both kids and adults; everyone loves getting something fun in the mail each month. 

Celebrate minor holidays.

Major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years receive so much attention that it’s easy to forget that there are other holidays that can be celebrated and enjoyed. Instead of going all out for the “big three” this year, consider a longer-term approach that spreads out the fun. (This has the added benefit of focusing on holidays that have less, well, depression and baggage associated with them.)

Pink heart drawn on paper in crayon

Maybe make a plan to celebrate Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s Day. For a less traditional twist, check out the other minor holidays listed here

In 2021, consider planning small celebrations and activities on special days that align with your family’s interests. Plan to visit a history museum on Civil Rights Day (January 18th) or plan a fun Cinco de Mayo celebration for May 5th. A bit of ingenuity planning can give your family small joys to look forward to in the early months of 2021 once the regular holiday season is over.       

Celebrate the whole season.

Winter can be cold and dreary, but it also gives us a chance to feel a sense of cozy togetherness. You can make the most of winter months this year by adopting the Danish practice of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah”). Practicing a hygge lifestyle means focusing on those things that bring a sense of contentment, security and well-being – things we could all use a bit more of this year.

Here are ways you can adopt a hygge mindset this winter: 

  • Make a seasonal bucket list for yourself or your family for the months to come. (Click here and here for some great ideas.)
  • Decorate your home with festive lights and candles that you can use all winter. 
  • Plan seasonal reading lists, movie lists, activity lists

Extend holiday traditions.

Consider giving small gifts at other times of year besides Christmas. This gives participants a sense of anticipation and joy beyond the traditional gift-giving season. Perhaps give small gifts to family members on the first of each month, or on minor holidays. Consider a gift of service or time (a “gift certificate” for an afternoon on their own, a shoulder rub, or “movie of your choice” night, for example.) Gift giving is a positive way to combat holiday depression, encouraging kindness and sharing in a difficult time.

Rethink holiday greetings.

I am so over Christmas cards. What was once a meaningful tradition of sending hand-written holiday sentiments to friends and family has changed. These days, many of us receive a family photo with a generic greeting that’s sent by an online company. The warmth and connection of the original holiday card tradition has largely been lost. 

A family I know came up with a different tradition I love. Instead of sending Christmas cards, they send Valentine’s greetings with a handwritten and photocopied update on the family. It’s a delight to receive this at a quieter time of year when I have time to really enjoy it. 

Consider starting your own “off-season” greeting card tradition. Perhaps you could make your own cards, include a “2020 Top Ten Family Memories” list, or some other fun and interesting news.

This year’s holiday celebrations are going to be different. But that’s not the point. Making holiday plans that boost happiness for you and your family even just a little is significant. 

This year, it’s all the small joys that will carry us through the months ahead. 

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