5 Ways to Find Happiness This Christmas

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Serena Faber Nelson

For a lot of us, Christmas can be a hard time of year. Whether we’re alone, away from loved ones, facing loss in our lives, or just not feeling particularly festive, for many of us our holiday season reality falls a long way from the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful Christmases in my lifetime. I’ve also had some ‘not so great’ holiday seasons – in fact the bad ones have made me appreciate the good years even more. But one thing I’ve come to learn in between all the Christmases, good and bad, is that there are always ways to bring a bit of joy and peace into not only your life, but also the lives of those around you.

So if you, or maybe someone you know, are facing a tough Christmas Day this year, here are a few simple tips that allow you to embrace the day in your own way and find a bit of that ‘Christmas Joy’ along the way.



1) Give a little piece of yourself. It may sound like a cliché but for everyone who thinks they’re facing a crap Christmas, there’s always someone out there doing it a lot worse. For me, there’s nothing sadder than thinking of rescue dogs at Christmas who would give their arms, legs and tails to be part of a family this holiday season. But in reality, this Christmas in the shelter may be the only one they ever know, and that dream of having a home to call their own will never become a reality. So why not volunteer to walk or sit with these dogs on Christmas Day, or even better than that, consider taking it one step further by offering your services in an ongoing capacity for the coming year. Dogs may not be your thing (how you ended up on this blog I do not know) BUT if so, try your local church group, soup kitchen, or volunteer services to offer your assistance. You’ll soon realise by giving that little piece of yourself to others, you’re giving yourself a bit of peace in your own heart. Because no matter how you may feel at Christmas time, by making someone else’s day a bit brighter (be they of the two or four legged variety), you’re going to feel that bit better in your own soul.

2) Give yourself a break. For too many of us Christmas becomes all about the must-dos and the ‘Shoulds’. I Should send out Christmas cards to my co-workers. I Should host a festive dinner for the 80 members of my extended family. I Should help organise the Christmas party for my son’s soccer team. I Should catch up with every friend and acquaintance I’ve ever known in the space between December 1st and 24th. It’s overwhelming and the feeling of Christmas joy is soon replaced by Christmas anxiety. So I’m here to tell you that by releasing some of the ‘Shoulds’ into the ether you will be giving yourself the best Christmas present you could ever ask for – your sanity.

3) Give others a gift they’ll remember. For so many of us, we’re bombarded from early November with gift guides, wrapping services, payment plans and every possible avenue to ensure we buy other people the ‘perfect’ gift. Now I’m not about to say anything against presents (or gift guides, because some of them are truly AWESOME), but when I say a gift to remember, consider taking some time out over Christmas to write a few notes to those who have brought joy to your life this year – in either small or big ways. It doesn’t have to be a partner, a family member, or the usual ‘Hallmark’ suspects. Write a note to a friend telling her how much you have valued her support this year, a message to the man who does your morning coffee letting him know how his friendly smile always brightened your day, a card to your local paper saying how much you enjoy their work…It doesn’t have to be an essay or proclamation of love – just a little handwritten note of gratitude to let others know they’re appreciated. You never know, your little note might just make their Christmas.

4) Give thanks. Now in Australia, we don’t have Thanksgiving, but to all you Americans, I’m stealing this one from you. What do I mean by giving thanks? Consider taking some time to yourself on Christmas Day, just to sit down and write down what you are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth list – let’s face it, sometimes at this time of the year when things haven’t gone the way you thought they would it can be easy to think we have nothing to be thankful for. But just try. Start with the basic things. For me – I always am thankful for Soda (the dog, not the beverage). And you know what? Just by thinking about how lucky I am to have her, I start feeling pretty happy with my lot in life. I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s the times when we think we don’t have anything to be thankful for that are the moments we need to count our blessings the most.

5) Give it a rest. This is the fun part. This is where you take off the fancy Christmas party dress, you forget about settling the annual fight between Uncle Ray and Cousin Doris, you let go of the fact that your office Kris Kringle forgot to buy you a present…and you RELAX. Whether it’s curling up with a good book (or three), watching a Seinfeld marathon (including the Festivus episode of course) or falling asleep with this song on repeat – just give yourself a chance to rest and reboot. Set yourself up with your favourite snacks, a comfy blanket and turn off your phone… just be. My personal favourite is snuggling up to watch a home cinema session including favourites like Elf, The Grinch and Dirty Dancing (it’s a fine movie all year round thank you!) The best bit about relaxing? You don’t need anyone else around to make it happen. I stress this point, because for some Christmas can be a lonely time of year. But it needn’t be. Rather than spending your time longing for the company of others, relish the moments when you’re alone and take that time to enjoy your own company. Because I bet you’re a hoot. (And frankly, much more fun than Cousin Doris).

So there you have it. I wish it was a failsafe guide to ensure that everyone who reads this will be blessed with a wonderful Christmas, but in reality I know this time of year can be tough. So instead, I’ll leave you with good tidings. I hope no matter what sort of festive season you are facing, that one or all five of these tips allow you to find some happiness to call your own on Christmas Day. Because you deserve it.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas (and a prosperous Festivus).

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Serena Faber Nelson

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11 responses to “5 Ways to Find Happiness This Christmas”

  1. Kelsey Smith says:

    What a beautiful article.

    I know that on Thanksgiving this year (I am American living in Australia now) I was quite down after dealing with some health issues and missing home a whole lot. So, my husband and I took the day off and went down to the animal shelter and had Thanksgiving with the dogs. We also came with roast turkey and enough bones for all of them, and they were so happy. We cuddled, walked, and fed them and nothing has ever made the blues go away any quicker. Great suggestion!

  2. Another good post! I am so thankful for all the blessings God has bestowed on me but the holidays are so hard. I have to really fight the depression that wants to consume me so I do a lot of little things to get through. You are so right about helping others can help us too. Kirby and I just got a foster dog who was neglected and taken from his owners. This little dog should be angry and aggressive but has only shown an abundance of love and trust. We should all have such giving hearts especially this time of year. God bless you and Soda and all the sweet creatures!

    • Thanks so much for your kind comment Debby! I think behind all the shopping frenzies, TV specials and office christmas parties there are a lot more people out there than people think that find the holidays tough. Just thinking of the work you do brings a smile to my face, so I’m glad it brings you such joy too. Forget Christmas – you bring joy all year round! Wishing you, Kirby and your fosters a wonderful Christmas xxx

  3. I loved your comment on my No Christmas Consumerist Craziness post, thank you for sharing. This is also a great post that you’ve written. I definitely think we all need to practice some kindness towards ourselves too when entering into this busy season! Hope you have a great week. 🙂

  4. sarah says:

    what a lovely post serena. i think this is the first year that my whole family have decided not to go crazy and buy loads of presents for each other (well, apart from a big package we sent to my brother and sister who still live in england because we miss them sooooo much). christmas time should be about being thankful for what you do have and kind of reflecting on the past year. i love your suggestions of giving little handwritten notes to people. the thought of being able to brighten someone’s day with something so small. thanks for this post that, for me, really captures the true spirit of christmas.

    p.s. i have already watched elf, love actually (of course!) and meet me in st louis as my relax portion of the christmas season. love the grinch too!

    • Ah Meet me in St Louis is another favourite! I have to say having been on the receiving end of some lovely cards and notes this year they have meant the world to me – so much more than an expensive gift.
      Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas xx

  5. blanket says:

    Such a lovely post – just looking at it made me feel warm and snuggly and then reading it somehow made me feel calmer :)) Lots of real great tips, thank you Serena!

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