How to Recapture Wonder and Magic at the End of the Year

As the end of the year creeps up, it’s time to reevaluate how 2016 went. As you look back at the last 12 months, you’ll probably notice that your year had a lot of heavy, serious or cynical moments. When was the last time you acted like a kid, with all the wonder and magic that you used to experience during the holiday season? As the coming year inches closer, it’s worth considering some tips and tricks to recapture some of that joie de vivre you used to have.

Take care of your body 

It’s hard to feel starry-eyed and ready to embrace magic if you’re not feeling your best. “Of the things I’ve learned along life’s path, one of the most useful to me is that it is much easier to enjoy life when my body is friendly to my daily activities rather than working against them,” Montclair, N.J., life coach Don Snedeker says. “And I’ve seen this in others, so it’s not unique to me. The people I take yoga with, for example, are typically more engaging and more positive about life than those who aren’t as active, and many of the people I am in class with are over 70 years old. There’s something about not having to fight our own bodies that enables us to capture more of life’s wonders and joys, which can be as simple as laughing more easily because you’re in a better mood, or it can be as deep as contemplating why we are here on earth in the first place.”

Swap gifts for experiences

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with trying to track down the perfect present for your longtime bestie or the ideal gift for your favorite cousin, but that shouldn’t be the focus of relationships during the holiday season. “Focus on experiences rather than gifts,” positive psychology coach Dr. Colleen Georges says, adding that “lasting wonder and happiness are due to experiences.” This can mean springing for concert tickets for you and your mom. Singing along to her favorite oldies with her will definitely provide a more lasting memory than tracking down random knick-knacks to give her. Most importantly, be thankful for what you already have, and don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to snag every deal at the mall. “When something is new and wonderful, it’s full of wonder and excitement,” she says, adding that as the novelty of something wears off, you usually stop being so in awe of it, whether it’s a new home, relationship or electronic. “When we make being grateful a regular part of life, wonder becomes a regular part of living,” she says.

Put away your cell phone 

Try to think of your happiest family members from when you were a child. They may have included a tree house, skinned knees or playing tag until it was dark outside, but we guarantee none of those memories involved an iPhone. Georges suggests spending some actual face time with your nearest and dearest—not FaceTiming. “When we’re [on our phones or social media], we don’t fully experience the moment,” she says. You may realize that by looking up for your screen and hanging out with folks without rushing to post something on Facebook, you may actually enjoy the time more.

Don’t overschedule yourself 

While on the topic of rushing, it might seem like whenever you have time off from work or school, you spend it rushing from one place to another. (You may roll your eyes each time you realize you have to do a “tour” of four different relatives’ homes on each federal holiday.) But don’t get guilted into doing that. “We have to be realistic with ourselves, and we have to be realistic when we’re making plans with [other people],” Georges said. If you feel overscheduled, tell a relative who is trying to get you to overbook that you’ll have to see them on an alternate date. That way, you can make sure to spend time with each family member without keeping your eye on the clock. How much more fun is it to hear about your grandfather’s teenage shenanigans or look at old pictures of your parents when you know you don’t have a bunch of stops to make on your way home?

Rediscover a childhood pleasure

Whether you used to love eating your mom’s world famous(ish) cookies when visiting, or you were all about rewatching Home Alone every time you were with your cousins growing up, why not pick up one of your old childhood passions? “The spark of physical engagement can be re-ignited simply by remembering the childhood passions many of us had, whether running or ice skating, taking ballet or playing baseball,” Snedeker says. “It all ties into finding our own, personal way of maintaining the inspiration to enjoying life to the fullest, and when our bodies are assets in enjoying the wonders of life, the enjoyment is so much deeper, so much broader, and becomes a springboard for appreciation of the miracle of life itself. This will put a gentle smile on your face, especially when you allow yourself to embrace the wonder that is your life.”

Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor living in New Jersey. She has written for health and lifestyle publications including Women's Health and Brides. A proud dog mom of one, you can find her skiing or on the bocce court in her spare time.