BY SHAYNA ENGLE
The leaves are changing color. Pumpkins are popping up everywhere. Your boots and coats have made their way to the front of your closet (on the rare occasion you leave the house) and Netflix is highlighting movies for the season. It’s official. The holidays are here.
Have you been daydreaming of cozy get-togethers and festive celebrations with loved ones? Everyone piled into the house, laughing over silly games, mask-free singing and dancing, lots of treats and holiday cheer? You’re not alone. Now more than ever, we’re craving comfort and familiarity.
This global pandemic has thrown a wrench into just about everything this year and the holidays are no exception. Many of us are brokenhearted over traditions and visits that we must skip. It’s important to grieve your losses, but we’re here to remind you to look for the silver—or even better, the green linings. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Take comfort in less CO₂ emissions
Rather than traveling, are you staying put this year? Celebrate this decision.
The long-term impact that Covid-19 will have on our environment is still unclear. However, we do know that for many people—especially in the U.S.—air-travel is the biggest contributor to one’s carbon footprint.
According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, commercial aviation accounts for about 2.4% of global CO₂ emissions, with a 32% increase since 2013. For the most part, it’s only the wealthiest of countries who participate in air travel, with the U.S. making up 29% of the total global emissions.
So, feel free to exhale that huge sigh of relief knowing that this holiday season, you’ll opt out of flying and/or reduce your usual holiday car travel. Think about what a gift that is to our planet. Talk about a green lining!
2. Connect with Mother Earth
Did you know that soil and antidepressants have something in common? The friendly bacteria found in soil (mycobacterium vaccae) can actually stimulate serotonin.
Gardening is known to reduce stress, get the blood flowing and even improve your diet. If this year has you spending a little less time and energy with loved ones, reallocate some into working with dirt. Everything from planting a pine tree to starting an indoor herb garden can do wonders for your mind, body and soul. You can also check out our earlier post which includes a couple of tips on idiot-proof home gardening (without soil).
I plan to put a special holiday spin on my work with nature by making some décor. Orange and clove balls, pretty wreaths and cinnamon stick ornaments are all classics for this time of year.
3. Building on community
For so many, the pandemic has uprooted our lives, created financial havoc and put distance between us and our loved ones. However, we can get creative too. Despite the distance and the financial hardship, you can still give this holiday season and you can strengthen your bonds while doing so. Rather than spending money and resources on giving tangible gifts this year, consider a circle of commitment with friends or family.
A circle of commitment can include commitments of all types. For example, I know that a weekly Zoom call with my family of origin is not realistic, but I am happy to commit to a bi-monthly call. I’m even giving myself a few bonus points for being the one to motivate the family, create and schedule the meetings.
Two close friends of mine—a couple—have committed to reading a play aloud to one another as part of their weekly in-home date night. Is there an art medium or activity that you and your partner have been looking to explore? Perhaps you’ll commit to co-designing a special date.
I love seeing the different ways I can stretch this idea and am considering how I will commit to myself and the planet. One commitment I’ve already made is to eliminate phantom power in my home and save a little on my electric bill in the process.
4. Set intention with the money you haven’t spent
If the pandemic has not had a negative impact on your finances, perhaps it’s had a positive impact. If your income hasn’t changed and you were one to eat at restaurants, go to the movies, sporting events, live shows and the like, chances are you’ve saved some cash this year.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that many of our fellow communities need our support. This holiday season, you can consider giving to Covid-19 relief organizations, disaster relief organizations and/or social justice movements. If you take delight in giving tangible gifts, consider eco-friendly products (but watch out for greenwashing).
5. The upside to contagion
In this case, we’re not talking about the virus, but rather a state of mind and an expression of gratitude. Take some time to note the ways your day-to-day life has changed this year. Have you found a new hobby? Have you slowed down? What have you learned about yourself? For which holiday traditions have you grown more appreciative?
The pandemic has helped me slow down. Now, I can see that my previous lifestyle was overbooked. I’ve realized that spending ten minutes outside each day helps to soothe my soul and that I love taking baths. And, given that I won’t be visiting my hometown this year, I cherish the memories of my family’s annual holiday brunch even more deeply.
In lieu of usual celebrations, talk to your loved ones about what you’re grateful for (and watch how it encourages them to do the same).
There is no question about it, this year has been tough and embracing change can be challenging. I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and as you find your own silver and green linings, don’t forget to relish in those comforts and traditions that you can keep. Sharing hot cocoa over Zoom, baking holiday cookies, listening to your favorite holiday album or streaming your go-to holiday movie can offer a nice touch on what will likely be a memorable season.
About the Writer
Shayna is a writer, wardrobe stylist and actor. She has a knack for helping clients express themselves through clothing and writes garment descriptions and styling advice to aid in the process. Natural fibers are her favorite. She enjoys biking, hiking, beaching, cooking and experimenting with new ways to give back to the Earth.