How to be Happy This Christmas: Take The Santa Challenge

light in the dark

Photo by David Lienhard

1. Be Santa. Give. Randomly. Without expectation. It benefits everyone. Studies have shown that when we help others it increases our happiness, improves our health, and even reduces depression and pain. So what are you waiting for? When you’re pushing that empty shopping cart across the parking lot, offer it to the mom who’s lugging the baby carrier. Or offer to take someone else’s empty cart when you’re on your way in the store so they don’t have to put it away. It’s a moment to be kind. Don’t let it pass. Make someone a scarf or a beanie if you have the skills, and say a prayer over each stitch. Maybe the elderly person next door would enjoy some bread, cookies, or having their walkways shoveled. Take some treats, homemade cards, or a box of warm socks to the nursing home that you drive past everyday. Do something anonymous. Serve and love. It changes you inside.

My local newspaper recently ran a special feature. A section full of Christmas lists. But not the kind you’re thinking. These were lists of names of elderly people in residential facilities and children in the foster system. Beside each name they listed one or two items the person wanted for Christmas. They asked for things like pants, a word search book, soap, beads to makes jewelry, a scarf, a small gift card to Walmart. As I read over these names, it really made me tear up. Find your local Soroptimist organization, church or other community Christmas trees, toy drives, Christmas lists, etcetera.


2. Smile and be jolly. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Genuine smiles, not those fake, grimacing ones. Real smiles create happiness. There is scientific proof for this. Smiling readjusts the facial bones and causes your neurotransmitters to release dopamine, which gives you a sense of wellbeing and joy. Best of all it is contagious. I know you might hear stuff like this and think: yeah, whatever. But I actually tried it. I looked people in the eyes and smiled at everyone, everywhere I went, all the time. People smiled back. All that smiling increased my own joy. I noticed more happiness in others. It was suddenly everywhere around me. People I came across looked brighter, kinder, and seeing their smiles induced even more joy in me. It’s a cycle. Try it.

3. Offer every bit of this as a Christmas gift to God. Every action you take, every smile you give, and every bit of love you spread, do so as a gift to God. When you clean your kitchen, cook a meal, complete an assignment at school or a duty at work, or even scrubbing the bathroom, do your best work and take your time. In your thoughts and prayers, intentionally be in the moment and let your best effort turn even the mundane into an opportunity to give back to the ultimate Giver.

Isn’t it ironic that we celebrate the birth of Christ at the time of year when the night is the longest? Christmas is a celebration of light entering a world of darkness. Let it shine brightly through you.

Peace in the Light,

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