1. Tackle something on your friend's to-do list. No matter how swamped we get during the holidays, we all know someone who's feeling a little more frazzled. So lighten the load for your BFF by offering to help her assemble the big-surprise dollhouse for her kids, or swing by and grab your elderly aunt's packages and cards to bring along with yours to the post office. You'll do good and feel good.
2. Elf your neighbors. Be a Secret Santa with a twist—pack up some yummy treats or another sweet surprise, then head out on a mission to add a little holiday cheer to your neighborhood. Put the gift on the doorstep, ring the bell, then sneak away fast to preserve the mystery.
3. Get a party started. Sure, everyone's schedules get a little hairy at this time of year, but look for a little pocket of time to get together with the people you love, and get creative with your party idea—invite people over for an "ugly Christmas sweater" brunch, sweeten an afternoon with a desserts-only spread, or host a cookie decorating or gift-wrapping extravaganza (bonus: you'll cross a to-do off your list and have fun, too).
4. Kick the everyday up a notch. Work a little magic into your daily routine. Stock up on marshmallows, candy canes, and whipped cream, and have a cool hot-cocoa bar to treat your kids before they tackle their homework at night or head off to school in the morning. A countdown calendar stuffed with tiny treats or notes about fun activities they can do each day adds anticipation to the season. And if you swap out the skim milk in your coffee for some festive eggnog, we won't judge.
5. Plan a surprise event. Experiences make magical memories, so add a few in this year beyond the requisite visit to Santa. Spring for tickets to a local production of the Nutcracker or another seasonal favorite, organize an ice skating get-together, or take the kids on a tour of your town's holiday decorations.
6. Perform random acts of holiday kindness. Look for ways to spread joy throughout your community—stop in with cookies for an elderly neighbor; sing carols at a nursing home; volunteer at a soup kitchen; make no-sew blankets for charity; or send something sweet (and entirely unexpected) in the mail to your friends or family members who live far away.
7. Give the gift of love. A great gift is lovely—but a great note where you share all the reasons why you love someone is priceless. Take a few minutes to jot down what makes the special people in your life so special. You'll be glad you did.