Previous month:
December 2013
Next month:
February 2014

how to make spirits bright (in January!)


It's mid-January now and the holiday season is well behind us (most of us have even taken down our holiday decor!), but I've been thinking a lot about the positivity that goes along with the holiday season and how it's so often left behind when January rolls around. Instead of making spirits bright, most of us are making resolutions, focusing not on what's happening around us but on what we should be doing in the year ahead. This time of year, it's all about what's going to happen, not what is happening, which is a swift departure from the holiday season, which tends to be focused more on the present (sprinkled with traditions from the past). 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "making spirits bright." It's something I never hear any time of the year other than in December, but why? Why not make spirits bright all year long? I say, let's do it! Let's strive to make spirits bright, even in the middle of January (which, in my opinion, is most when my spirit needs a little brightening!). Let's strive to focus not only on what's coming up in the year ahead, but also on what we can do to make today brighter, better, and more positive. 

Here are some of the best ways I can think of to make spirits bright all year long (and especially in this gloomy month of January!). 



Hold the door for people. Say thank you when someone else has held the door for you. Let other cars go in front of you when you're merging in traffic. Image that it's Christmas Eve. How would you react when you see someone rushing, hurrying, stressed out? You'd probably be less likely to be irritated by their behavior than normal because you're in the holiday spirit (or you'd at least understand why they might be overly stressed). Try to keep that spirit with you and act with courtesy and understanding. 



During the holiday season, many people tend to be a bit more cheery (excluding those who are more stressed, which unfortunately does tend to happen sometimes). When feeling cheerful, people are more likely to give compliments, which are like tiny little gifts that are completely free! Even if you're not feeling particularly cheery, try to give at least one compliment a day. It's such a small thing but it can have an amazingly positive impact on someone else's day. 



You've probably taken down your holiday cards by now, but think back to a few weeks ago when they were still popping up in your mailbox. Wasn't it so fun to receive mail that wasn't a bill or some trash-destined piece of junk? Snail mail is such a great way to keep spirits bright and it works in two ways. One, it brightens your spirits to write a little note to someone you care about and drop it in the mail, knowing how it will delight him or her to open it. And, two, it brightens the day of the person you mailed it to.



Remember those days when you were in the mall and heard the first snippet of a Christmas carol, a sound that instantly brought a smile to your face? (Maybe that's just me, but any sign of an upcoming holiday makes me smile!) The holiday season adds little touches to the world—lights, sounds, colors, glitter!—that make us smile. The decor might have been taken down, but look around for things that will make you smile. And smile at as many people as you can throughout the day—it will brighten both your spirits and theirs. 



The holiday season is frequently when we think about donating time, offering to volunteer at a homeless shelter or even simply help out at a local school. During the holiday season, we also hear a lot about donating to others—particularly toys—but what about the rest of the year? Consider all of the ways you can donate this month (and every month!) to help brighten someone else's spirits. You can donate things you no longer need or want (perfect for those odd Christmas gifts you don't know what to do with!) or you can donate your time to a local charity. Nothing brightens your spirit more than giving back to others!  

5 benefits of noting happy moments



If you've been following Positively Present for awhile, you might recall that, back at the beginning of 2013, I decided to create a jar of happy things to fill in the year ahead. During 2013, I collected my favorite moments of the year—everything from the little things, like a joke that had me cracking up, to the big things, like signing my first book deal!—by writing them down on bright scraps of paper and storing them in a jar. (To my surprise, I filled up the jar quickly and had to buy another one!) It was a simple exercise—all I had to do was jot down my favorite moments and stash them away—but it turned out to be a really worthwhile activity, loaded with surprising, positive benefits. 

While collecting my moments for 365 days, I didn't think too much about it. My focus wasn't on what I was getting from writing down these little moments, but instead on simply celebrating the moments and feeling joyful as I wrote them down and stored them. However, when I cracked open those jars on January 1, 2014 (a day later than I'd initially planned, but actually a nice way to kick off the new year), I realized that the months and months of jotting down these happy moments actually had some really wonderful benefits. Here's the benefits I reaped from doing this little project—and benefits I think you too could reap if you decide to give something like this a try in 2014: 



When I opened up those jars and started unfolding all of those pieces of paper, I was surprised by some of the things I'd written down. In particular, a lot of my notes started with "Cracking up about..." or "Laughing so hard over..." While I would be the first to admit that I love to laugh, seeing all of these laugh-out-loud moments captured throughout the year made me realize how important laughter is to my happiness. (Also important to my happiness are friends, dogs, and creating things.) I didn't expect this to be a soul-searching sort of exercise, but it ended up turning into one, showing me the things that mattered most to me in 2013 and reminding me to focus on these things more in the year ahead. 



While unfolding the notes, I was surprised by how grateful I felt for all of the happy moments I'd experienced throughout 2013. When I thought back on the year, as I often do at year's end, I considered it to be a pretty good year. But when I looked through all of my notes, unfolding all of those little moments of joy, I was overwhelmed by how many great things had happened in just 365 days—many of which I'd forgotten all about. I also noticed how frequently certain people were mentioned, making me realize how valuable (and positive!) some people are in my life, and filling my heart with gratitude for those who matter most to me. 



One of the best things about creating this jar was the push it gave me to focus on the positive moments in my life. It's really hard not to dwell on the things that go wrong. (It's human nature I think, to ruminate on the tough stuff, maybe as a way to protect ourselves from future pain.) But with this jar in the back of my mind, I found myself looking for the little positive moments, searching for things to write down and store in the jar. The more I looked for those moments, the more I found them. And writing them down later brought back a feeling of joy similar to what I'd experienced in the moment itself, almost as if I got a two-for-one deal on positive feelings. 



Creating habits isn't all that hard. Creating positive habits, on the other hand, can be a bit of a challenge. Having this jar helped me to create a habit that was both positive and relatively simple. I clearly got a lot out of storing notes in the jar all year long (much more than I thought I would!), and it was relatively easy to do, making it a great habit. Anything that's simple but offers lots of benefits is a great sort of habit to start, don't you think? There aren't too many of those habits out there (at least, not to my knowledge) and I'm so glad that I picked up this one, a habit I'm hoping to continue for many more years to come. 



When it comes to life's happy moments, we often spend a lot of time celebrating the big events—birthdays, graduations, new babies, new puppies, big wins at work—and sometimes the little moments get overlooked or forgotten. When I kept this little jar right by my desk, I was constantly reminded to look for things to celebrate, causing me to look past the big events and seek the little moments of joy that happen almost every single day. For example, I found joy not just in the day my new puppy, Barkley, arrived, but also in the first time she was confused by the sight of a firefly or the first time she tentatively touched snow. All of the little moments were recorded, providing me with a much more robust view of joy I'd experienced when I looked back on the year. 


perpetual-calendarI loved this little project so much that I'm going to do it again in 2014, but I've decided to switch it up a little bit. My one issue with doing this was that I don't know what to do with all of these little scraps of paper now that the year's over. I don't want to throw them away, but I'm a big fan of eliminating clutter (and nothing says clutter like hundreds of scraps of paper!). So I did some searching online and found something that I can use year after year—and something that will sit neatly on the shelf next to my desk without looking as unruly as a scrap-filled jar. (No offense, jar. It was good while it lasted.) I found these Perpetual Calendar Pages on Etsy and purchase them with a gift card I'd received for Christmas (thanks, McNeal family!). I love the organization of the tabs and dated cards, and I really love the fact that I can use them year after year after year. 

In 2013, I didn't write something down on a daily basis—only when the mood struck me—but I think this new layout will encourage me to find something worthwhile in every single day, which will be a great way to stay positive all year long. Now all I need to do is find (or make?) something colorful to store those cards in so that it catches my eye and reminds me to jot down all the happy things this year will surely send my way...