Be Happy: How to Stay Holiday-Jolly All Year

Listen to Music That Makes You Happy

Music and happiness
Music can bring happiness in a hurry--and that increase in good feelings can bring a decrease in stress!. Atsushi Yamada/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

The holiday season can be a stressful time. It’s also a time of year we look forward to like no other, because of all the aspects of the season that make us happy. Because of all the wonderful benefits that come from cultivating happiness and maintaining a good mood (including the benefit of increased resilience), I suggest that we all take the things that we love about the holidays--or other special times we enjoy--and make them part of our everyday lives throughout the year.

Here are my top six suggestions for bringing the "cheer" to the rest of the year.

Holiday Music:

Like many people, I have a holiday playlist of songs that I love and that I mostly listen to this time of year. (Mine includes an eclectic mix of everything from "O Holy Night," sung by various people, to The Kinks’ "Father Christmas" and the USA for Africa classic, "Do They Know It’s Christmas?").

Whatever your musical choices, the songs we play tend to get us into the moods we enjoy, bring back memories of other happy times and generally make us feel good. The increased presence of music can really enhance our experiences this time of year.

New Year Inspirational Music:

Teenagers are generally pretty adept at immersing themselves in music, but what about the rest of us? Many of us don’t make music a daily part of our lives as we could. For those of you who aren’t already doing so, I suggest that in the new year (whatever time of year you are reading this), you make an effort to add more music to your life. Either by bringing your MP3 player with you more often, exploring musical consumption options like the website Spotify or just turning on music when you come home and keeping it on whenever it makes sense to do so. Explore new types of music, and add your old favorites to your playlist as well. You can even sing or whistle your own!

More: How to Use Music for Stress Relief

Decorate Your House to Bring Inner Peace

Candles can be a great focus of meditation.
Tetra Images/Tetra images/Getty Images

Deck the Halls:

The decorations we see during the holiday season never fail to bring a smile to my face. Seeing wreaths, ribbons and lights all around us instills a festive feeling for most people. Getting out the holiday decorations and putting them up with family can be a favorite activity for families. Lounging in homes that are decorated, smelling of spiced cider or cocoa, and sitting in front of a warm fire - these things can all bring a warm and happy feeling during the holiday season.

Spice Up Your Space:

I’m not recommending that you keep a Christmas tree up year-round, but why not have a few decorations you bring out for various times of year or simply focus on maintaining a clean and organized home. Culling clutter (and selling or donating what you don’t need), organizing what’s left and having a decorating scheme that really resonates with you can provide you with a haven from the stresses of the outside world.

You’ll also have a nice place to invite friends, and you won’t feel emotionally drained when you want to relax at home after a long and stressful day. If you put out fresh flowers, burn scented candles (aromatherapy has wonderful benefits for stress relief), replace the decorative pillows and pictures every once in a while and do other things to keep your surroundings fresh and perhaps even seasonal, you can maintain that cozy feeling that holiday decorations bring.

More: Tips for Maintaining a Low-Stress Home Environment.

Get Together with Friends All Throughout the Year

Robert Daly/Getty Images

Holiday Parties:

The parties and gatherings that occur during the holiday season can provide a wonderful way to relax, connect and enjoy the people we know and love. The only unfortunate aspect of the holiday party season is that there are often several parties to go to during December, which can be draining and difficult to fit into one schedule.

Regular Get-Togethers:

Maintaining strong relationships is not only good for your stress levels, it also supports your overall health. Enjoy the fun part of the holiday social scene without the party pile-up by throwing a few parties during the year or simply scheduling more time with friends. Have a regular game night, pair up with a workout buddy or three, or find other ways to stay connected and have fun. Even if you have an already-full schedule of work and family commitments (or, I should say, especially if you have a schedule full of responsibilities), it is important to take time to nurture your relationships and have some fun.

More: How to Have More Fun with Friends

Maintain the Spirit of Giving

Flying Colours/Getty Images

Holiday Gifting:

Most children and many adults rate the gift-opening part of the holiday as one of their best experiences. Who doesn’t like presents? While holiday shopping can be stressful to one’s energy levels and finances, the gifts themselves can be a lot of fun.

Treat Yourself Every Day:

You don’t have to wait for December or for your birthday to enjoy a treat; you can work these things into the rest of your year. Sure, you may not be able to buy yourself something new each day or give your friends and family everything you wish they could have. But you can make little treats and surprises a more common occurrence in your life.

Little pick-me-up things to enjoy — what positive psychologists refer to as "pleasures" — can be anything that lifts your mood, appeals to your senses or makes you happy; they can be free or cheap. Treat yourself or a friend to a cup of coffee, a warm hug, a fun movie, a batch of cookies or, yes, perhaps something a little bigger that would really bring you joy.

It’s not that we don’t do these things normally, but perhaps we don’t think to do them as much as we could. Perhaps we don’t think to share them with our friends and family. (Yes, making others feel good can make us feel just as good, if not better.)

If you get a variety of pleasures in your life - and make it a point to enjoy at least one per day that you wouldn’t normally seek out - the rest of your year can be filled with fun.

More: How to Add More "Pleasures" to Your Life

Feel Gratitude in the New Year, All Year

Maria Teijeiro/ Getty Images

Warm Feelings of Gratitude:

During the holidays, we tend to appreciate our friends and family and all the "stuff" that we have in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving by actually focusing on everything we have to be thankful for can be a great start to the holidays. It is difficult to get through a season of celebration, shopping, connection to family and friends, gifting and days off without an increased sense of appreciation for it all.

Cultivate Gratitude in the New Year:

Living a life filled with gratitude is easy. We may find ourselves naturally drawn to these feelings during the holiday season, but we can absolutely engage in gratitude-enhancing activities at any time of year. And we are absolutely better off if we do so. (Read more about the benefits of gratitude to find out why.)

When we choose to focus on the things we appreciate in life, we feel like we have more. We enjoy what we have more, and we tend to spread those good feelings to others, which can make our relationships more positive.

Make a small effort to focus a little more on what you appreciate in life. Even if you are already a pretty grateful person, you can always find one extra thing to appreciate in a day, or feel those feelings a little deeper. You will have greater feelings of abundance, without needing to have anything more than you already have.

More: Find Effective Strategies for Cultivating Gratitude

Maintain Spirituality, Manage Stress Year-Round

Spirituality is linked with coping ability
Tim Robberts/The Image Bank/Getty Images

There is also a spiritual component of the holidays that deeply touches many people. It definitely bears mentioning that this spiritual connection can bring stress relief, life satisfaction and deep feelings of peace. Spirituality may look different for everyone, but the benefits are clear. If you are spiritually inclined, I’d like to encourage you to maintain a spiritual practice — by attending church or another house of worship, engaging in regular prayer or meditation or celebrating in another way that resonates with you. Try keeping it up throughout the year.

More:​ Benefits of Spirituality

Continue Reading