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Joy to the World. Ode to Joy. These and other popular carols remind us to find happiness in our holidays. They tell us: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” “Tis the season to be jolly.” “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy…”

But sometimes it’s hard to be happy at the holidays. We may feel overwhelmed with shopping, tree trimming, party-going and other traditions of the season. Perhaps we’re reminded of old family conflicts. Or maybe we’ve experienced a recent break-up or other loss.

No matter the challenge, there are simple ways to bring joy to your holidays:

Make time to play. Try not to get too caught up in the hustle-bustle. Carve out time in your schedule to do something fun with absolutely no agenda. Even just a half-hour will help.

Laugh! Look for things that make you laugh every day. Try to see the lighter side of what life brings you. Take a laughter yoga class. Spend time with friends who make you laugh. Sit in front of a mirror and force yourself to laugh — you’ll be laughing for real in short order!

Find room for quiet time. Sit by yourself for just 10 minutes. Try using Insight Timer, Headspace, or another popular app to meditate or do guided imagery. Reflect on what is meaningful to you about this holiday, your family and friends, and your life in general.

Do a random act of kindness. Look for ways to surprise others. Give up your place in line for a stranger who seems rushed. Buy a cup of coffee for the car behind you in the Starbucks drive-through. Compliment a weary cashier. Pay a toll for the next vehicle.

Complete one thing on your bucket list. Find something you’ve always wanted to do and make it happen. If you don’t already have a bucket list, make one. Then pick something simple from that list and do it!

Be kind. Try to be patient, open-hearted and kind in your daily interactions. Kindness goes a long way in bringing joy to others. Putting a smile on someone’s face often puts a smile on our own.

Be grateful. Nothing brings holiday cheer like “an attitude of gratitude.” It’s the royal road to feeling joyful. Write down at least one thing each day for which you are grateful. Try not to repeat yourself. Look for the little things in life that matter to you. A warm smile from a stranger in line at the store. Your child sleeping peacefully. The purring of your cat or silly antics of your dog. Those moments are everywhere, if we look for them.

The New Leaf Center staff wishes you joy this holiday. We hope you find it in the simple things and quiet moments of the season.

Jackie MacKay, M.A., LMHC, NCC, CSAT