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Happiness Project: Enter into the Spirit of the Season.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

We’re entering the holiday season. People approach this in different ways.

My mother, for example, loves to collect and present beautiful things. Her Christmas decorations are breathtaking. Also, along with three decorated trees and many beautiful arrangements, she gets seasonal plants like paper-white narcissus flowers, poinsettas, and evergreens.

I’m an under-buyer (as opposed to an over-buyer), so I never get around to buying decorations, and I can never bring myself to buy flowers or plants. Also, I’m always looking for ways to be efficient and get a lot done, so I begrudge the time it takes to put up decorations.

But I realized – even before my happiness project – that I had to push against my inclinations in this area. Entering into the spirit (whether of a holiday or a season of the year) is a resolution that’s a struggle for me to keep, each time, but I also know that it gives a major boost of happiness.

So I figured out how to enter into the spirit in my way. My mother bequeathed me some of her decorations – Halloween and Christmas – so I didn’t have to assemble them. Once when she was in New York during the holiday season, I had her arrange the decorations; I took photos; and now I arrange them EXACTLY the way she did. I still don’t buy plants. That’s all I can manage, but that’s enough.

Samuel Johnson observed, “There is, indeed, something expressibly pleasing, in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.” Entering into the spirit of a holiday or season, in whatever way works for you, is a powerful source of happiness. Maybe it’s spring, maybe it’s the end of school, maybe it’s the Fourth of July, maybe it’s Ground Hog Day…every holiday or season doesn’t suit everyone, but look for ways to celebrate a particular time of year.

Like many things that boost happiness (unfortunately), this resolution can be a pain. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes money, it takes planning. But in the end, it’s fun.

If you don’t have money to spend on decorations, look for ways to enter into the spirit that don’t cost anything. Seasonal food is a good way, and seasonal activities, like ice-skating or pumpkin-picking. If you’re craft-y, or if you have kids, it’s fun to make your own decorations.

One challenge to entering into the spirit is that some people get a kick out of making fun of what you're doing, and some people think it’s a waste of time. The Big Man doesn’t enter into the spirit, much – he doesn’t oppose it, but he doesn’t get into it. He didn’t even know that blue and white are the colors of Hanukkah until I told him. Oh well.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, this just isn’t my style. I’m not going to get into the spirit.” Okay, some people just don’t enjoy it. But if that’s true, at least try not to dampen other people’s pleasure. Remember to shield your joyous ones; don’t make it harder for them to enter into the spirit. Admit it: even if you think it’s a waste of time and energy, don’t you get a kick out of seeing seasonal decorations?

Have you found any good ways to enter into the spirit of the season?

Lots of interesting material on On Simplicity.

Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

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