2020 has certainly been a difficult year for most. With an ongoing global pandemic, divisive politics, and heightened awareness of persistent racial injustice, this year will go down in history for being one of the most challenging.

As we head into the holidays, there can be a level of pressure to be cheerful. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all. But, in the age of COVID-19, not everyone will feel like celebrating. This season, many will be unable to see loved ones in person, as travel restrictions and ongoing lockdowns prevail. The global impact of the lives lost during the pandemic may sink in deeper. The end of a long year of challenges and disruptions may call for deep introspection.

The holidays can be a stressful season during the best of times, and this year the world is collectively grieving, growing, and finding ways to move forward. Here are some ideas to help you embrace the holiday spirit and end the year on an up note.

Start a new tradition

The holiday season is a time filled with traditions, and many families have their own quirky customs. Some people put pickles on their Christmas trees. In Japan, KFC is a necessity on December 25th. Radishes are the star of the show in Oaxaca, Mexico, on December 23rd. In Wales, a horse (either as a costume or a real-life animal) goes door-to-door, alongside singers and dancers in a tradition known as Mari Lwyd. Ukrainian traditions include decorating Christmas trees with spider webs.

This year, as holiday traditions are disrupted by travel restrictions and social distancing, it could be the perfect time to create new ones. Families can connect in new ways, such as an all-inclusive Zoom call. Cousins can come together virtually to defeat a pandemic in the new video game from Plague Inc. Loved ones can share and compare recipes, making up for missing your Grandma Maria’s Macaroni and Meatballs by learning how to make it. Better yet, host a Great British Bake Off-style virtual challenge among friends and family, and find out who has what it takes to nail a technical challenge.

Connect with someone from your past

2020 has seen families, friends, and neighbors become reconnected during the difficulties of COVID-19, and there’s no reason this shouldn’t continue into the holidays. If there is someone you’ve fallen out of contact with during the pandemic, or even before, use this time to reach out to them. Reconnecting with people that matter to us is a core part of many holidays, and nothing feels better than receiving a call from someone you miss.

Dig deeper into how to reconnect with friends and family over the holidays with this helpful article.

Reconnecting with people that matter to us is a core part of many holidays, and nothing feels better than receiving a call from someone you miss.

Embrace guilty pleasures

Everyone has a favorite movie, show, or book that serves as a form of comforting entertainment. Find time to enjoy those forms of entertainment over the holidays, coupled with comfort food and a cozy environment. If you want to include friends and family, consider hosting Netflix watch parties, and take turns choosing your favorite movies. Or, if you’d prefer to step away from the screen, revisit your favorite childhood book series, or start a new one with friends as a special holiday book club.

Donate

It feels great to give, and studies have shown that the act of giving can provide a whole host of health benefits, including lower stress levels and increased happiness. After the impact of the pandemic, there are a multitude of organizations in need of donations and support. If there is a cause close to your heart, find a non-profit that you can donate to, or volunteer for. To find virtual volunteering opportunities, check out VolunteerMatch or DoSomething.org. If you’re stumped on a gift to get a loved one, you could donate in their name to a cause that you know is important to them!

As a company, we make a point to give back every year, and for the holidays we are donating to organizations that help first responders, our local community, and the creative industry.

Studies have shown that the act of giving can provide health benefits, including lower stress levels and increased happiness.

Express gratitude

Did you know that practicing gratitude can improve both your mood and your physical health? Studies have shown a connection between gratitude and overall well-being. To begin a practice of gratitude, find time at the end of each day to write down three things that you are grateful for. During the holidays, write thank you notes to those who have given you gifts, or simply to those who have helped you throughout the year. This practice, if consistent, has the potential to improve your relationships and health, as well as your overall happiness.

Share your new holiday traditions and practices in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.