How to Sow Joy and Compost Stress This Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays. They’re full of family, memories, traditions, and activities… all of which can bring cups overflowing with joy—and plates full of stress. We know, we’ve been there. Before those months come crashing in on you, though, we’ll give you some practical tips to ensure you know how to sow joy and compost stress this holiday.

Sowing Joy

First, let’s clarify that joy is very different than happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances—it comes and goes based on what’s happening in your life. Happ-iness is about what happ-ens. Joy, on the other hand, is a state of mind in which you are at peace no matter what. You can only control so much in life, but the ability to find joy amidst the struggle, strife, and stress (because we can’t get rid of those!) enables you to live a much more enjoyable life.

This holiday season, implement some of these tips that will help you choose joy—and then bring those skills with you into the rest of the year.

Random Acts of Kindness

The holiday season should be about recognizing what we’re grateful for and putting that abundance back out into the world. Try performing a “random act of kindness” for someone in your community once or twice a week. Bake some cookies and leave them on your neighbor’s doorstep. If you’re crafty, make a couple of holiday door wreaths or flower arrangements and give them out with a handwritten note. Offer to pay for someone’s coffee or lunch. Even holding a door open for someone or giving up a parking space puts good out into the world. You never know whose day you’ll brighten, or whom you’ll have touched that may have truly needed that kindness.  And last, create your own joy by playing games with neighbors, family, and friends.  There is something special about creating relationships by interacting with others and games are a great way to do just that.

Slow Down with a Good Book

Many northern countries have the Christmas Eve tradition of giving each other books. Then, for the rest of the day, everyone cozies up on a couch or chair with a warm drink and reads the day away. Does it get any better than that? If Christmas Eve doesn’t work for you, recruit a few family members or friends and choose a day to be your “literary getaway.” Forget all the “have to’s” of the holiday season, at least for a day, and enjoy getting lost in a good book. That to-do list will be there when you finish your book, but you’ll be calmer and more relaxed. You can even do this when you’re far apart! Agree to dedicate the day and then send each other pictures or updates. If you enjoy this, try and implement it a few times a year to remember that letting go of the “busyness” is okay.

Find the Light

Of course, most homes and businesses put up holiday decorations at this time. The reason we decorate with lights during the holidays goes back to “lighting up the darkness.” Go for a slow drive or walk around your neighborhood. At each house, or at the end of each block, take a deep breath and remind yourself of something you’re grateful for. What are the lights in your life that brighten the dark places? You could also keep a gratitude journal in which you write down all the blessings you’ve been given. When your brain concentrates on the positive, you’ll see the positive in your life more naturally.

Compost Stress

When you compost, you take waste material and push it deep down into the soil to be reconstructed into something new, something useful. Stress is something that none of us can escape. However, we don’t have to ignore it, letting it pile up around us and make us sick (like trash). We can reconstruct it so that it brings good to our lives in a new way. All growth comes from the death and reconstruction of old things. Stress, then, can be taken and reformed into something that makes us grow into stronger, more resilient people.

Stress is divided into two categories: distress and eustress. Distress is negative, like worrying about a sick family member that you can’t help or not being able to pay the rent. Eustress is good stress, such as an obstacle or task that you need to figure out how to overcome and which you’re proud of at the end, such as planning a large event or learning how to navigate a new job. Whatever it is, you can apply the acronym COMPOSTING to help process it.

C Is for Compassion

When we are compassionate, we are kind and listening friends. Be kind to yourself in your moment of stress. Give yourself grace.

O Is for Orient

What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the stress? Orient yourself to the situation so you can process it fully.

M Is for Mindfulness

Be present in the situation without judging. Try to see the situation objectively. What would you tell a friend dealing with the same stress?

P Is for Pendulation

You want to turn negative things into either neutral or positive. This takes time to shift. Be patient.

O Is for Opening

Allow yourself to open your feelings to changing emotions. As your brain begins to process stress, your neurochemicals begin to alter. But if you close yourself off to change, it’s harder to see things in a new light.

S Is for Settling

Composting is a long process, it takes time. As you go through a stressful situation toward the other side, allow your nervous system to settle so you can reclaim your energy. Don’t rush things.

T Is for Tempo

Take notice of your rhythms, physical and emotional. How did you feel at the beginning of the stress and how do you feel after going through the process?

I Is for Integrate

Continue using these skills when stressful situations arise. When they become a habit, you can use them more effectively.

N and G Are for Now Go

Go back out into the world and bring good, helping others manage their stress, too. Live your life unafraid and full of joy.


Remember that no one can escape stress, but we can learn to deal with it effectively. You can also teach yourself to “choose joy,” so that you naturally come to see the beauty and abundance all around you every day—during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.  Yes, by all means, we need to sow joy and compost stress this holiday season!