Finding Joy this Christmas

In a country where the festive season traditionally starts in September, the past two years have been anything but traditional. Only a few more days to Christmas, thanks to the cold breeze, in a way, it starts feel “a lot like Christmas”. But with the looming threat of the new COVID-19 variant, how can we see the silver lining, or ‘hear’ the bells jingling, in the midst of the challenges brought by the pandemic, almost two years on.

At this time of lingering despair and uncertainty for most, we can still choose to be hopeful and optimistic. The secret lies in finding joy even in the ordinary or uniquely difficult circumstances we may be in.

1. Practice gratitude. Thankfulness rewires our brains to appreciate the world around us and actually see more of the good. It changes our perspective and our attitudes. Cultivating a habit of thanksgiving opens us to more positive experiences, creating a virtuous cycle. As David Steindl-Rast puts it: “It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us joyful.”

2. Find meaning in the mundane. Days feel like drudgery when you can’t see a deeper purpose to your activities and experiences. Instead of feeling lost and unfocused, spend some time thinking about what your experiences have taught you – or are continuing to teach you. Define your job or your tasks not simply as things to do, but small contributions towards something greater. You’re not just making dinner – you’re helping ensure your family remains healthy so you can spend more time together.

3. Share your blessings. Giving is a funny thing – we often think we’re helping someone else, but end up receiving more from the experience. Doing good improves our mental health and takes us out of our self-absorbed world. In fact, a study has shown that people who gave to charities are happier than those who don’t. You can give in many ways – your time, your talent, your material possessions. And in case you’re wondering, giving has many benefits aside from emotional wellbeing. So go ahead, make this Christmas an opportunity to share and experience the joy of giving.

4. Reconnect with friends and family. Just because you won’t be able to see them doesn’t mean you can’t share meaningful experiences together. Online meetings can get tiring, but catching up with an old friend or relative that you haven’t spoken with in a long time can be refreshing. It doesn’t even have to be a video call – good, old-fashioned phone calls can actually bridge the gap. Renewing friendships gives both parties a chance to reminisce and bring to mind happy memories. A study has shown that people who nurtured healthy long-term relationships – with friends, relatives, and significant others – are happier in life. So go ahead and check in with an old friend.

5. Perform random acts of kindness. Our world can always benefit from more kindness. It can be small gestures like letting someone go first in the grocery line, or smiling and giving someone an encouraging word. Small acts of kindness are contagious, and it makes you feel good, too. In fact, people who do three to five different acts of kindness a day are happier than those who only do one act of kindness (or even none at all). Feel free to get creative with your kindness campaign – people tend to appreciate kindness more when it’s completely unexpected. Variety also brings freshness to the experience for yourself, and will prevent kindness from becoming a chore.

The most important thing, of course, is remembering what Christmas is all about. Focusing on Christ’s coming and the blessing of salvation is more than enough to fill us with joy and gratitude, in spite of the challenges. The greatest gift this season is God’s gift of his Son to mankind, taking us out of darkness into light.

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation

and increased their joy;

Isaiah 9:1-3a

May this Christmas remain a season of true joy, hope, and peace for everyone.