If you're feeling like the holidays don't have the same sparkle, we got you.

The holidays usually mean cheer and fun for most folks. But as we continue to get older, they seem to lose that holly jolly feel. If you’re feeling sad or have S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), read on for some tips to make the holiday season bright (again).

1. Save All Your Presents for Christmas Day

I learned this one as soon as I entered high school. If present-getting was on a chart, you’d see a sharp decline from middle school to high school (and it will continue to decrease as you get older). The best advice I can give you is to save all your gifts. Got a gift from your pal 10 days before Christmas? Put it under the tree as soon as you get it. Got a gift from a family acquaintance that you know is a box of cookies? Doesn’t matter. Save it for Christmas day! Trust.

2. Make a Holiday Cocktail

Nothing gets me more hyped for the holidays than the smell of warm cinnamon. The senses are key to ensuring a festive holiday season. To make your spirits bright, why not have some actual spirits? If you’re underage or prefer not to have alcohol, you can make a delicious mulled cider or hot chocolate (abuelita’s with cinnamon is the best). Creating a drink for yourself will not only fill your senses, it will be something sweet to share with your loved ones, too!

3. Host a Friendsgiving or Gift Exchange

I love the holiday season because I have a very specific reason to host gatherings and shop for gifts! Even though I could not host any gatherings this year, apps like Elfster make it easy to host an online Secret Santa or other gift exchange. My favorite one this year has been a virtual friendsgiving where all my buds pooled together $25 each and had a spreadsheet of random gift cards you could pick from. It was all random and spread out ($10 to Red Lobster or $100 to Postmates), and it was a lot of fun trying to guess who would end up with what.

4. Advent Calendars

Growing up I never had an advent calendar, but  I feel like as I continue to get older, there are more and more types of advent calendars being pushed in stores and online. Do I think they are scams made by corporations to try and get more money? Yes. Will I still purchase the Mickey Mouse chocolate advent calendar? Yes.

If you’re struggling to keep your presents wrapped until Christmas day, this will be a great way to ease that pain. Who doesn’t love a little gift every day? (Especially if that little gift is a bottle of wine, courtesy of Costco).

5. Donate Toys/Gifts to Those Who May Need it

This year my partner and I put together a shoebox of goodies for a child in need. It was small, not expensive, and really felt great to make a little gift box with items that we both enjoyed as children (we followed the suggested list, but if one of their suggestions was a scrunchie, and Amazon let me purchase 30 different colors and textures of scrunchies, I’m going to give them ALL the choices).

Putting together gifts or foods for folks who may be having a rough holiday season can be an activity that brings together your friends, co-workers, and community to support those in need.

6. Accept Non-Perfection

Although I really love the holidays now, it wasn’t always bright lights and cheer. I would often get stressed and overwhelmed. Between the obligatory presents, food that I needed to make for potlucks, all the presents that needed to be wrapped, setting up the tree, and everything else that goes into the holiday chaos, the holidays just stopped being fun for me.

It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I realized just how much havoc all that stress caused me in my mental and physical health.

I almost lost my brother during the holidays a few years back. He is doing fine now, my family has recovered as a whole, and everything happened the way it needed to happen, but that crisis put the holidays in perspective for me.

The holidays became jolly again when I took the pressure and stress off of me. It’s fine if my house isn’t a sparkling wonderland equivalent to Disneyland’s Main Street. It’s fine if my gifts aren’t pristinely wrapped. Instead, I’ve been trying to focus on the spirit and intention of everything I do. When I buy a gift, I do my best to think about that person and what they would like. When I try to wrap a gift, I give it all my effort (and if it doesn’t come out great, I’ll buy or reuse a nice bag to put it in). When I start feeling overwhelmed, I pause and  ground myself again.

So, if it helps, the holiday season doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. But it is a perfect time to reconnect with loved ones, spread a little holiday cheer, and focus on making the holidays great (again).

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