How to Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

It is coming around to that crazy, festive time of the year again, Christmas, when everyone goes into a frenzy of spending, stressing, card writing and letter sending to every loved one across the globe. I have always loved Christmas time as for me it was always time spent with my family and just a general atmosphere of Christmas which always made me happy. Reflecting back on Christmas day last year I have changed a lot, grown a lot and learnt so many things it feels like 10 years ago instead of just one! In Australia we don't have the Thanksgiving tradition, but thanks to all of the American blogs I read I realise that is about now that everyone takes a moment to give thanks for what they have. It is such a lovely idea, and even if not every country has a holiday dedicated to such an event, I believe we can all give thanks on a daily basis. Moving on, when contemplating Christmas I realised for some people it can be a time of stress, anger, heartache and loneliness. Whatever your situation might be, wherever in the world you are, whatever beliefs you have, here are a few ways to have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 1. Give, give, give! I am sure you all enjoy receiving presents at Christmas, as I do, but I have always found it gives me far greater and more lasting happiness to give rather than receive. It is nice to give someone something that you know they will appreciate and something that truly suits them, although I do know how hard present buying can be for some people!

2. Volunteer. Christmas is unfortunately a very tough time for many homeless and disadvantaged people who struggle to put food on the table. By volunteering, in any way you can, even just for one day you can make a huge difference to someone else's life and I am sure it will make you feel A LOT better about yourself.

3. Give thanks. Whether you celebrate thanks giving or not, take a moment, whether it be on Christmas Day or New Years Eve, or every day to give thanks for everything you do have and all that you're grateful for. It is surprising how a grateful attitude towards life can really change your mindset from a negative to a positive one.

4. Re-gift. Once the big day is over and you're left with a pile of presents which will probably never come in use to you at all, instead of shoving them at the back of a cupboard to collect dust for a few years before you throw them out, re-gift them! You can either give them to someone you know will appreciate it or donate it to charity so that it will benefit someone in need. Also, removing the excess clutter from your home has been shown to improve overall happiness, so get donating!

5. Give meaningful presents. It is often hard to find the perfect present for everyone and sometimes there is pressure to spend 'enough' to make the presents worthwhile, however I prefer to focus on giving meaningful presents instead of expensive or flashy ones. For people close to you, think of what they love doing, what motivates them or a dream they have and try to pick a present based on that. Is there someone who has a dream holiday they always talk about, why not buy them a nice travel journal or holiday planner. Alternatively, give a present that gives back, such as sponsoring an orang-utan on their behalf or buying a goat for a village in Africa. Most of these little gifts are easy to purchase online or through the organisations and quite affordable as gifts, plus it won't clutter up the receivers house one bit!

6. Take care of your self. I know that this will be the hardest for me, to stick to my good diet and remember to exercise over not only the festive period, but for all of the six weeks of summer holidays! At Christmas functions limit drinks to one and then drink mineral water for a refreshing, bubbly and guilt free alternative. Watch out for finger food which is laden with sugar, gluten, bad fats (unless the host is wonderfully health conscious) and try not to eat to excess. On Christmas day remember to load up on veggies, salad and turkey (which is a high protein meat), but steer clear of the creamy potato bakes and pasta dishes. AND DON'T HAVE SECONDS! This is my worst crime as I never, ever need another plate of food, I eat it simply because it is there. Dessert to is best avoided completely, because puddings are full of everything you shouldn't eat. In regard to exercise, it can be hard to find the time and the motivation to get out and do something when everyone else is enjoying their holidays, so find something that is quick and easy, like a short running route, yoga and stretches in the morning or swimming in the pool (as it is summer in Australia and Christmas time is hot, hot, hot!). It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you take the time to do something. For me, most of my summer exercise comes from water skiing on the river in my home town, so it certainly doesn't have to resemble going to a gym class! If you can do nothing else, meditate to keep your calm. All of your good habits will reward you when your New Years Resolution is not to lose your Christmas belly!

7. On that note, set good New Years Resolutions. This is the chance for a fresh start at the beginning of each year to set your intentions for the rest of it. Don't go for the standard, to lose weight, to get fit etc. because they are not specific enough to be achievable. Instead, choose a goal which is important to you and close to your heart, then make sure you have a plan to get there. These kind of changes don't happen by accident and it will require effort and persistence, but I am sure it will be worth it in the end.

So, here's a very early blessing from me, I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Stay happy, stay healthy :)