The big day is over. Now what? If you’re like me, you spend so much time planning, preparing, and priming to make Christmas special for everyone you love, that you feel a little let down once the calendar flips past December 25. I still have a refrigerator full of leftover fudge and Christmas ham, but the store shelves are already filled with Valentine’s Day merchandise. It’s disappointing. I want to hold on to the spirit of Christmas all year long; that extra measure of generosity, joy, and gratitude that seems to invade the air we all breathe. I have learned that I can keep the Christmas spirit alive in my heart no matter what the calendar says, and so you can you, by focusing on three simple things:  

  1. Generosity. One of the elements that makes Christmas such an inspirational holiday, is the way that people seem to go above and beyond their normal measure of giving, especially to those in need. The reality is, we will always have people in need among us, not just during the Christmas season. Find a charity, church, or other non-profit organization that supports a cause you believe in, and give of your resources regularly. While that can include finances, volunteering your time and talents can also be very rewarding. There is a deep soul satisfaction that comes from giving to someone or something without expecting something in return.

  2. Joy. An emotion that goes beyond happiness, which is largely based on circumstances, joy is rooted in a deeper source. Unlike happiness, joy actually isn’t a feeling. It’s more of a knowing. It is born from a confidence of knowing that even on the days you don’t feel happy, you can still experience peace. How? By trusting God with all of the details of your life, especially the things you can’t control. I’m betting there are many things in life you don’t understand and can’t control, and for many people, feeling out of control causes anxiety, even panic. But when you trust God, you have peace. And peace produces joy. I can’t help but conclude that the joy that fills the air at Christmas time is generated by the reason for the season; the birth of Jesus. He is known as the “Prince of Peace.” Whether people acknowledge it or not, that’s what we’re celebrating. And true joy is contagious. Spending time nurturing your relationship with God, or taking the step to begin a relationship with God, if you don’t’ have one yet, will root your life in confidence, and joy, all year long.

  3. Gratitude. Much has been studied and written about the subject of gratitude in the past few years. It almost seems like the concept of gratitude is trendy. But it’s actually timeless. I think it’s just taken our culture awhile to get a grip on the importance of it. Gratitude is good for your mental health, and it’s at the heart of the holiday season. So, why shouldn’t it be at the center of every season of our lives? Life is full of hurts, heartaches, and disappointments, and if you focus on those, you live in a negative head space most of time. The truth is, if you look hard enough, even on the toughest day, there is always something to be grateful for. Try starting a gratitude journal in 2016; just write down one thing each day you are grateful for. You may be surprised how much this daily practice can transform your mind and your life. 

Hope whispers, give generously, pursue joy, seek gratitude. 

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t have to be a temporary by-product of the season. By giving generously, pursuing joy, and seeking gratitude, you can give it a permanent place in your life all year round.