Twinkling lights, caroling, family dinners, and the holiday spirit. It’s easy to feel happy this time of year, right? Not for everyone. In fact, for a variety of reasons, many people feel down and depressed during the holiday season. 

If you’ve been feeling low or are going through a rough patch, you may struggle with the “joy and goodwill” spirit of the season. You should reach out for help if you are seriously depressed and if you are having trouble pursuing your customary activities. But if you are simply in a bit of a holiday funk, try some of these suggestions to put some of the holly and jolly back into the season. 

Reach Out and Help Someone

It’s the season for giving, and there’s truth to the maxim that the best way to help ourselves is to give to others. Drop groceries or some warm clothing off at a homeless shelter, organize neighbors for an afternoon picking up trash at your local park, take a meal to an elderly neighbor or a sick friend, or start a volunteer job at the local school or animal shelter. 

There are also many small gestures you can make to help friends and family members. One of the best things you can do for someone else is let them know you are listening. When a colleague, friend, or family member is talking to you, make eye contact. Put away your phone. Nod and paraphrase what they’ve said to show you are paying attention. This could make a huge difference in someone’s day, particularly if they are struggling—and it will help you feel better, too.

Start a Journal

If you can talk to someone about how you’re feeling that’s great, but you may find that your most honest and thorough release comes from writing things down in a journal.

Go out and find a journal that you love. Write with a pen that feels good in your hand. Some people like to type into an online journal; others find that jotting down thoughts with pen and paper feels more cathartic. Try to make a little time every day to sit quietly and write. 

Start a Gratitude Jar

Some families have a  “swear jar,” and family members have to put money into the jar every time they say a bad word. A gratitude jar is a variation on that idea: you must write down something positive in your life every time you get caught (or catch yourself) complaining.

Grab some inexpensive supplies (think craft paper, stickers, a glitter pen or two, and a Mason jar) and make it your own. When you’re feeling down, reach into the jar and you will find a reminder that things aren’t as bad as they seem. 

Dish Out Compliments

Pay attention to the people you interact with every day. Did your coworker get a new haircut? Did the cashier at the grocery store go out of her way to help another customer? Have you noticed your neighbors holiday decorations?

Take a few moments out of your day to say something kind. Write a positive note to a supervisor. Show your spouse and your kids how much you appreciate them. By encouraging others, you will encourage yourself, too.    

Make Amends

As the year comes to an end, think about any lingering grudges or bad feelings you might be holding on to. Is there someone out there who deserves an explanation or an apology? Has someone asked for your forgiveness?

Of course, this is not something that should be forced or rushed but it is worth taking inventory of the emotional baggage you’re carrying. By addressing these situations, you will lift a weight off someone’s shoulders—including your own. 

You shouldn’t feel like you have to fake a smile just to get through the next few weeks. Be honest about your struggles, but always keep your eye out for those silver linings. They can show up in unexpected places!