'Tis the season to be merry, but the worsening pandemic, social distancing, and the struggling economy have made the 2020 holiday season extremely un-merry for many people. If you're among them, here are some things that may help. Use them yourself, and share them with your employees who may be feeling the holiday blues more than usual this year.
If you're feeling down, you may lack the energy or the desire to follow any of these suggestions. Please pick one and do it anyway. Every one of these is scientifically proven to improve your mood and will make this awful holiday season just a little more bearable.
1. Get outdoors.
You can't go to your usual holiday parties or restaurant outings this season in most places. So many people are replacing those traditions by spending more time outdoors instead. That's a great thing because being in nature is proven to improve mood and wellbeing. So is exposure to sunlight, and even on cloudy or rainy days, going outside will get you a lot more sunlight than sitting inside, even if you're next to a window. If you don't have the proper clothes to feel comfortable outdoors in winter weather -- treat yourself. Spend a little of the money you've saved on holiday travel or entertaining and invest in some warm, waterproof, windproof, breathable outdoor wear. It'll pay for itself in your improved mood and increased productivity.
2. Get some exercise.
Exercise is a known mood booster and concentration enhancer. So even if you're feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season, make time for at least a brief workout, ideally every day. For twice the benefit, combine this with the first tip and do your workout outside, running, skiing, or just going for a walk. I guarantee you will feel better afterward than you did before.
3. Give yourself a special treat.
This may be tricky this year because many of the things you might have done to treat yourself aren't available right now. (Before the pandemic, one of my most reliable self-treats was to take myself out to a movie, for example.) So put some creative thought into it. Make a list of the things you most love to do and find the ones you can still do without violating social distancing orders, risking contagion, or damaging your own physical or financial health.
Then pick at least one of those things and do it! One of my own self-treats is a very long, very hot bath with bath salts, scented oil, candlelight, and soft music. I've indulged in that one a few times already this holiday season.
4. Get generous.
Research shows that money really can buy happiness if you give it away or spend it on someone else. So make donations or give gifts to lift your own spirits as well as someone else's. If you don't know where to start, consider making a micro-loan through Kiva. You can lend as little as $25, and pick a recipient around the world or in the U.S. And as your loan gets paid back, you'll have the money to lend again to someone else.
5. Reach out.
This pandemic may be keeping us alone in our homes, but we shouldn't let it make us isolated. So make the effort to reach out to the people you care about for long phone conversations or Zoom get-togethers.
Research has repeatedly shown that isolation and lack of companionship are bad for your physical and emotional health and will actually shorten your life. So do your own health a favor as well as someone else's and find ways to connect, say hello, catch up, or tell someone you love them. It may be the best way there is to make the 2020 holiday season just a little less dismal.