I love Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that's about spending a lot of time with family, eating a lot of awesome food and disconnecting from the crazy pace of my regular routine, even if just for a day or two. (I don't dig the long drive we usually have to make, but with enough good tunes and snacks, we deal.)
But Thanksgiving is also about something else: SHOPPING! I feel like I've been getting email promotions for Black Friday for weeks now and everywhere I turn there are tips for how to find the best sales and deals. Don't get me wrong, I love a great deal, but I've also learned that shopping my way to happiness is an absolutely failing proposition. Buying stuff doesn't make you happier (unless you're spending money on someone else). There's a lot of research to back this up.
So once you grab a few gifts for family and friends, here are 5 things I think you should do instead of going overboard with Black Friday shopping. I'm willing to bet that each one will make you a whole lot happier than getting a great deal at a mall.
Write a "You're Awesome" note to someone you appreciate
Thanksgiving is a great time to give thanks but take it up a bit and tell someone in your life that they are awesome. Write an email, send a text, or call them. It will make their day but it will make you even happier. Participants in one research study wrote one gratitude letter to someone for three weeks in a row. They reported feeling happier, more satisfied with their lives, and less depressed and anxious as the result.
Do 3 acts of kindness in one day
Studies show when we do several acts of kindness in a short period of time we feel happier because we acknowledge them and more connected to people around us. Here are just a few example of small acts of kindness you can do for friends or complete strangers:
- Hold the door when you see someone walking towards it.
- Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line.
- Pay a colleague an unexpected compliment.
- Help someone carry groceries to their car.
- Grab a family member's favorite snack on the way home.
Write a gratitude note to yourself next year
Expressing gratitude and appreciating positive everyday things has been shown by many studies to increase the feelings of well-being and optimism, help you sleep better, feel less stressed and anxious. Write down a few things you're grateful for, seal the list in an envelope and plan to open it in a year. As an added bonus, you'll look forward to reading what you wrote and looking forward to positive experiences makes you happier.
Donate money to a charity
People to contribute to a cause they care about are happier. Scientists have used functional MRI to show that giving to a charity causes brain activity in the same regions involved when you feel pleasure or reward. In one study participants were asked to decide how to spend $100 between themselves and a food bank. Those who gave $100 to the food bank experienced increased levels of satisfaction.
Check out Just Give if you need ideas or help in finding a charitable organization.
Listen to a song you love (or 10)
Music increases melatonin levels and makes you feel more positive. Put on your headphones and escape into one of your favorite tunes. Or you can blast it full volume in the car, dance along, and make people around you smile - a double happiness benefit, since when you make someone smile, you feel more awesome yourself.