Commentary: What to do now that the holidays are winding down and 2019 is near?

This is about two things — what to do as the holiday rush is winding down.

And how does that relate to the fraction 10/1440?

For many:

• the pace has been intense for weeks.

• the wallet is thin or empty.

• the need for relaxation and renewal is great or

• there’s a need for a new focus — something uplifting, something different.

Weary hosts, isolated or melancholy folks, and those devoted to serving others could probably use some TLC about now — a “priceless” present to those feeling tired or empty.

So what can we do to make the post-yuletide season calmer and brighter or to create more unity and joy as the holidays transition into the new year?

Here are some options for mind, body and spirit whether for others or one’s self.

No or low-cost activities

Outdoor time: Parks, trails, playgrounds, and indoor walking areas abound in Delaware — Brecknock in Camden, Schutte in Dover (with indoor walking track, gym and more), Big Oak near Smyrna.

Search online for parks and recreation sites, state parks, etc. to find many more outdoor options including neighborhood parks or playgrounds throughout Delaware or ones just across the state line. Rec and fitness classes and programs are starting now at most every rec facility, gym, senior center, etc.

Biography time: Ask questions of someone whose story you want to hear and preserve — an elder, a relative, a visitor. Consider the person’s early life, education, jobs, military days, fond memories, key events by decade or just something they always wished someone would ask. Take notes in a titled notebook or scrapbook (“Interview with John Q. Kilroy.”) Perhaps add photos to the book or record on video, etc.


Jigsaw puzzles: Put out puzzles for the kids and one or two more challenging ones for the adults — maybe in multiple rooms. Add a bowl of popcorn or trail mix with some cider or some fruit to fuel the brain.

Win-win games: Play board, card and other team-style or win-win games with family and friends. Think Scattergories (in teams), Pictionary, Uno, charades, or childhood games. Also, consider Song Burst (goal: complete the lyrics), Reminisce, Silly Street (a manners-building game for kids) or the new Eye Trivia games, etc.

Films: Watch old family videos and make this the year to get some onto DVD, etc. Or watch some upbeat classic films at home or in the theater. See seasonal favorites — “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the Hallmark Channel, children’s classics.

Reflecting: Reminisce while looking at vintage family photo albums or scrapbooks with your loved ones or friends. Check digital albums and mobile phones for more photos. Show the kids some photos of their parents, grandparents, or other relatives when they were young. Or stop and re-read the holiday cards and notes. Perhaps send some thank yous or updates. Mail after the holidays is often welcomed.

Real and virtual visits: Go to see a shut-in, a hospital patient, an isolated person, those in an assisted living or nursing home. Greet and listen, perhaps take a small treat, wear a happy heat, sing, or do pet therapy. (Check ahead with facility for permission.) Connect with someone who suffered a sorrow this year. Phone calls — even short ones — can also mean so much to a person feeling lonely, bereft, or down.

Volunteer: Call ahead to see if there is a homeless shelter, Code Purple location, house of worship, or place of charity where you can volunteer to do a regular or occasional job or bring a meal or need. Donation centers are often swamped at the post-holiday season and need volunteer help. Clean the closets, and give coats and extra items to clothing closets and charitable entities. See online for volunteer needs or visit a senior center if of age to do RSVP — Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Quiet times

Kind ears: Give a listen to someone without advising or judging them — maybe just an affirmative nod or some carefully chosen words of empathy — “I get what you’re saying.” “That must be difficult.” “You’ve been through a lot.”

TLC: Offer to give a back massage or back rub to a loved one. Maybe someone will return the favor.

Readings: One or two people read aloud to a group — a seasonal passage, a poem, a traditional holiday story, etc. Consider “A Cup of Christmas Tea,” a touching piece about a nephew visiting his elderly great aunt. Listen to readings on audio sources.

The quiet challenge: Let everyone pick a new or old favorite book, grab a cup of hot cocoa plus a healthy snack, and read for a set length of time. Turn cell phones and devices off. Snuggle up in a blanket, and maybe light the fireplace. See who can last the longest in silence (barring urgencies). All who do well earn praise and/or a special treat or snack.

Anti-loneliness: Consider visiting a place of worship or spirituality. If alone, reach out to someone who is also solo or could use your company, help, or a ride. Ask ahead to schedule the exact day and time so there’s something for all to anticipate. Someone out there is always needing others.

Drive around, and see lovely lighting displays: Share a cup of coffee or tea. Seek out stained glass windows to view by day or night.

Get up and out – free stuff: Experts say sitting or stagnating can be rather toxic — worse if in isolation. These days libraries show free films, offer DVD/media items/books to check out, and have a wealth of programs, book clubs, classes, computer options, and periodicals. Each county and most every city has a public library, and library privileges are often free or low cost to residents. Consult colleges for similar options.

Go to a restaurant or coffee spot with a good book, or meet up with someone there: Hotel restaurants, fast food spots, or donut/coffee shops may be open at hours or on days when other places are closed.

Calm by candlelight: Seek out your favorite flameless candle/s, symbolic candle, angel chimes, or candle carousel. Put on instrumental music — seasonal or classical — and just relax. Whether it’s on your own or with friends and loved ones, melt into the candlelight and think few or no thoughts. Perhaps count or journal about some blessings before you snuff the candle. Research reveals that listing a few positives each day and particularly at bedtime lifts one’s mood.

About the fraction 10/1440

There are 1,440 minutes in each day. What a wonderful thing to give 10 daily minutes (maybe more) of kindness, empathy, forgiveness, understanding, and/or compassion to another.

A planned or random act of kindness for a friend, family member, or stranger may make a lasting and powerful difference. In fact, it may bless the giver as much as the receiver. It’s a plus to give self-care, kindness, and compassion to one’s self, too.

In the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we are reminded how important each human being is in the grand scheme of things — even if it’s not obvious at the time.

Don’t we all have endless opportunities each day to be “present” for another person — to reach out with patience and caring, with kind words and deeds?

Who knows what impact our positive actions could have — especially if the other person is sad, sick, or needy … isolated, exhausted, or feeling unappreciated? Haven’t we all been at some point?

Is the risk worth 10/1440 — at least 10 minutes of our daily budget of 1,440 minutes intentionally being kind and caring?

It is a question I vow to ask myself more often — both today and in 2019.

Pat Thompson of Dover is a spouse, mother and grandmother, a retired high school/college educator with training in life coaching and a freelance writer.

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