Make the New Year Merry and Bright

Even in 2020, the holidays have so much potential to be about real things that last – hope, renewal, love, peace, inspiration.  

But advertisers want us to focus on other things.  They want us to think that love is expressed through jewelry, merriment requires booze, and joy is found in a mountain of toys.  They work hard to convince us that a gorgeously decorated tree, a Martha Stewart-worthy feast, and a new car with a big red bow will insure a perfect holiday.

Orion and Sirius

Advertisers are wrong.

Unfortunately, I still get caught up in the promises of consumerism, even though I know they're empty.  I still rush out to buy all the things.  At times, I have maxed out my credit cards and spent all of my energy.  I've gone crazy chasing the perfect holiday.

And then it's all over.

The presents are opened, the food is eaten, the special events are in the past.  You'd think I'd be happy and fulfilled by all of it, but instead I feel exhausted and let down.

As a kid, I remember wailing, "Everything's so boring after Christmas!"

Of course it was.  You'd think having new toys and time off school to play with them would make those post-Christmas days fun.  But there was no more anticipation, no more excitement.  The tree was dried out, the lights dusty.  Cold weather wasn't cozy, it was just cold.  And for adults, it was time to clean up and get back to the daily grind.  We had gained weight, and the bills were due.  

For most people, January is a slog.  But it doesn't need to be.

17 ways to add joy to January

1.  Count your blessings.

Yes, even in 2020!  Go ahead, write a list.  You'll be amazed how long it is.

2.  Challenge yourself to stop complaining.

Every time we complain, our brains release the stress hormone cortisol.  This impairs our immune systems and may even cause brain damage.  And when we constantly focus on problems, we train ourselves to look on the dark side of life, until our mindset becomes totally negative.  But the benefits of less complaining include more patience, more empathy, more positive interactions, and more happiness.

3.  Make a plan to get out of debt.

A load of debt is no fun, and can stress you and your family every single day.  But paying off debt is a challenge that makes us stronger, smarter, and blessedly free.  A lot has been written on the subject, and I recommend Dave Ramsey's approach.  But the most important first step is an attitude of hope, excitement, and the can-do feeling that you don't have to be held hostage by debt.

4.  Keep green plants.

House plants help reduce stress, purify the air, even improve concentration.  A pothos vine, sansevieria (aka snake plant), peace lily, English ivy, or succulent jade plant will thrive indoors.

5.  Buy a bunch of flowers.

You don't need anything exotic or expensive.  Grocery store carnations will stay fresh for a week or more, and their delicate, spicy fragrance is said to encourage a positive, energetic outlook.

6.  Plan your garden.

January is the perfect time to plan your summer garden.  At the very least, you can browse through some inspiring seed catalogs.

7.  Take walks in the rain or snow.

Bundle up.  Breathe deeply.  Observe the sky, the trees, the birds.  Notice how colors appear brighter against the monochromes of winter.  Be refreshed!

8.  Fill a bowl with oranges and tangerines.

Their sunny color, juicy sweetness, and burst of Vitamin C make them perfect for wintertime snacks.

9.  Stay hydrated.

Adequate water intake is good for your muscles and skin, and helps rid your body of toxins.  Filtered tap water is best – simply fill a pitcher and add lemon, lime, and orange slices, or try chunks of pineapple with a sprig of mint.

10.  Add music.

Choose music that makes you want to dance: jazz, swing, traditional Irish bands, disco, or your favorite oldies.  Try music that is new to you on Pandora or Spotify.  If you can, go someplace to hear live music.  Or why not renew an old interest and pick up your guitar or practice the piano?

11.  Light a candle, or keep up some white Christmas lights.

A candle adds a warm, heartening glow to a gray afternoon, and the silvery twinkle of white lights is cheerful when the sun sets early.

12.  Bring out old photos.

Remember friends and family, special celebrations, bad hair, and wonderful trips.  Share stories with your partner, kids, or grandkids, and be sure to laugh.  Display a sunny snapshot.

13.  Play a fast-paced game.*

Uno, Spot It, Catch Phrase, and Ticket to Ride (there's a version for younger kids too) are great games that can involve everyone.  My husband and I play Bananagrams.  Or do something physically active like Simon Says (really funny when adults play too), Balloon Volleyball, or Indoor Basketball (use a bucket and a rolled-up pair of socks).

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

14.  Make something.

Be creative.  It's scientifically proven to lower stress, improve concentration, and put you in a good mood.  Write a poem, draw a picture, embroider a monogram or another design on a pre-made tote, put together a model, try a new recipe or a new knitting pattern, craft a piece of beaded jewelry, use scrapbook supplies and your own photos to make greeting cards, design and plant a terrarium.  Enjoy the process with no expectations.

15.  Get lost in a new book (or an old favorite).

For January, choose a book that inspires action, or a tale of adventure and survival.  How about a cozy cookbook, or a story that unfolds in the dark of winter, but radiates light? 

16.  Simmer a pot of soup or chili.

This is all about the warmth, the aroma, and the resulting easy, tasty meal.  Just add some crusty bread and butter and you're set.

17.  Stargaze.

Take a walk in the park or a field where you can see the moon and stars.  The winter constellations are so brilliant!  My favorite is Orion, with the orange star Betelgeuse, diamond-blue Rigel, and bright Sirius following behind.  

Look up, and be amazed at the wonder and beauty of our universe.

We can make the New Year merry too, and we don't have to shop, eat, or drink our way to happiness.

Updated February 2023


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