Winter Blues

Frustrated by the over-commercialization of the holiday season? Overwhelmed by rising costs and dwindling income? Not only do we see people spending money that they cannot afford around the holidays we also see people become nicer, more giving. It is easy to feel annoyed when we see people “into” the spirit of being a nice person for this short period of time only. A lot of talk and a lot of noise along with the pressure to buy, buy, buy – others find the holidays a time of additional stress because they are alone.

Many of us dream of attaining a simpler lifestyle and we can see the demand by all the information posted online and the newsletters on living a more simplistic or sustainable life. Use your favorite search engine to find them to find a myriad of articles, books and two positive radio programs that will help you in your journey.

Families are now going back to earlier traditions of making gifts by hand rather than buying them (plates of goodies, crafts, art, dried arrangements, dried or processed vegetables, herbs and jams from their gardens, etc). Some are making the most of family fun during the holidays by creating treasure hunts (as opposed to wrapping the gifts) – which is good for environment because it reduces waste. Many families are taking on environmental themes in their holiday gift giving by choosing gifts that will benefit the recipient and the environment.

Another sure way to break the blues is to make someone else’s life a little brighter. Do you have a relative or neighbor that finds it difficult to wrap gifts? Help them with the task or purchase some reusable gift bags and boxes for them to use. Individuals and groups of friends can volunteer at several places around their community, if only for an afternoon; check with the local volunteer office if you are looking for places that need a hand.

Occasionally look through your closets, pantries, library shelves and storage areas for things that have not been used in the last couple of years or items you longer wish to own. Choose one section of the home at a time if you have a lot to go through. Donate the items to the less fortunate through food kitchens, shelters for the homeless, women’s support centers and missions. Send books to the library and your local literacy programs – and don’t forget to drop off items to thrift stores that raise funds for charities or hospitals.

If you have a few dollars to spare, even $20 would do, take the family down to the local grocery or pet shop and try to get as many items as you can for that money. Go down as a group and donate them to a food bank or animal shelter. If you can, try to purchase one item per family member as a donation for the food bank every time you go shopping. Even one can of tuna a week can make a world of difference.

Some families have taken on the task of repairing broken toys purchased at garage sales and thrift shops, which they then donate to others during the holidays. Perhaps you have a talent at a craft such as knitting mittens and slippers that you can use to help others.

Creative ideas like these are guaranteed to take the blues right out of your season, while getting the family involved in your community. Doing various holiday activities gets us out of our houses and into some fresh air. Living a more frugal and simplistic life encourages bonding between family and friends. Meanwhile we are able to make a measurable difference in our community. These kinds of ideas bring more life, adventure and love to us all for an extended period of time – they are memories and legacies that will last a lifetime.