7 Green Ways to Keep Good Cheer If This Holiday Season is Kind Of a Bust

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Doesn't it seem like you're supposed to have 20 parties to attend, a ton of gifts to exchange, and a bunch of decorating to do during December? It's been my experience that some years December is filled with lots of holiday-related fun, but some years it's not. Some years the holidays are bittersweet, and some years they're downright tough. I think we've all been there to some degree, so here are some ways to help keep the holiday blues at bay. They're mostly free, entirely eco-friendly, and hopefully more fun than sighing into your tea every time a Christmas commercial comes on TV. Yep, I've been there too.

Here are 7 things I've done to keep good cheer during tricky holiday seasons. I'd love to hear what you do too!

1. Take a long winter walk or hike. Seriously, is there anything better than a long, crisp walk in the fading afternoon light to clear your head and energize your spirits? I love bundling up, getting my music playlist together, and heading out for an hour or two to just walk, and look, and think. A perfect activity for a quiet Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

2. Do something spontaneously nice for others. A couple of years ago I opened my door on Christmas Eve night and found a tin of cookies on my doorstep, along with a "Merry Christmas" note from my good friend. She had spent her Christmas Eve making cookies and treats, carefully boxing them up, and leaving them (along with a note) on the doorsteps of friends and family. It was such a wonderful surprise for me, and I'm sure she felt great spreading spontaneous cheer by way of cookies.

3. Spruce up your pad. If you're not decorating for the holidays, think of it as a prime time to spruce up a room or two. That's what I did one Christmas Eve. Tired of moping around feeling sad because my boyfriend at the time was in a different city, I decided to repaint my apartment bedroom. I picked up a gallon of paint at a local hardware store (I'd make it eco-friendly this time) and painted late into the night while listening to Christmas music and, er, drinking some wine. It turned out to be a great time and I woke up on Christmas morning in a fresh and bright, lemon soufflé colored room.

4. Make dinner for a friend. Some holidays it's just not possible to gather with family, and that can be really hard. There is always the eat-out option, which has its charm, but sharing the experience of a quiet, delicious home-cooked meal with a friend can be just as fun, if not more fun, than trying to explain your upcycled gift to your relative. "No, upcycled has nothing to do with bicycles..." Yep, I've been there too.

5. Get excited about 2012: Make plans! I know it is important to appreciate every day, but when my holiday seasons haven't been ho ho happening, getting excited about things to do and places to go in the coming months always made those lackluster New Year's Eves less of a bummer.

6. Re-connect with a handwritten letter or phone call. Tis' the season for holiday cards, so why not use this time to truly reconnect with someone you're missing? Sure it seems like we're all "friends" with everyone on Facebook, but ironic status updates and carefully selected pictures (see: everyone always looks good + happy) don't come close to hearing someone's voice or reading a handwritten letter.

7. Volunteer time or funds. Many organizations are looking for volunteers to help with clothes, food, toy drives or meal-related events around the holidays. One year I saw a list up at a local café for donations needed at a local women's shelter. I decided that rather than buy presents for my friends and parents that year (I love them dearly but they didn't really need anything) I would use my money to buy items from the donation list. I delivered the items a couple of days before Christmas, and that turned into me volunteering in their childcare center the following year.

(Image: Julia Brenner)