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Twinkling lights.
Festive ribbons and bows.
Candles flickering on the table.
Fragrant greenery.
Jingling bells on doors.
Carols on the radio.

The trimmings of the season are designed to put smiles on our faces, to inspire us to take a pleasant pause and to lift our hearts. They are designed to make our spirits bright. In fact, without the trimmings, I’m not sure the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day would feel half as special as they do. Without the trimmings, this dark month leading up to the winter solstice would be even darker.

The choice to make spirits bright is available to us all year long. As yoga teaches us, when setting life intentions, it’s always helpful to start with ourselves.

How do we choose to be bright? In a nutshell, we take care of ourselves. We eat nutritious foods. We get enough sleep. We move our wonderful bodies every day – on a yoga mat or off. Daily, we set aside time to meditate or pray. We stay connected to the world around us by reaching out to our neighbors, by volunteering to help with a meaningful project, by staying in touch with our friends, by joining something (anything!) – a faith community, a biking club, a tennis team or a book group. We give generously of our time, treasure and talents. We count our blessings every night.

Starting by brightening our own spirit is far from selfish. When we are smiling, when we are pleasant, when we are centered, content and energized, we are simply better at living as the generous, caring, open-hearted, open-minded and loving people we were created to be. Yoga calls this living into our best selves. When we live this way, our bright spirits are contagious to the world around us.

Beyond simply living into all the loving potential held within each of our spirits, we can choose actions that make others’ spirits a little brighter. We can sincerely thank the bagger at the grocery store for taking care of our food and us. We can let the other person have the parking spot. We can give an extra-long hug when our loved one is feeling droopy. We can drop off a meal to a friend who’s had a rough week. We can scoop up the poop on the town trail even when it’s not our dog’s. We can shovel our neighbor’s walkway so they are surprised when they step out their door. We can quietly pay for an extra cup of coffee so the person behind us gets a little gift in addition to their caffeine fix.

I could type ideas all morning long, but I’ll leave it at that. I suspect, if you try spending a day or a week or a month living with the intention to make spirits all around you bright, that you will find it becomes a bit addicting.

Each time we choose to brighten another’s day, we are giving a gift as sweet and as meaningful as any we wrap to give during December. When we embrace the notion of making spirits bright, we become the beautiful trimming that enhances life for all those around us. And, just as our own peaceful, joyful state of mind can spread to others, the good will we are creating flows back to us, making our own experience of life quite wonderful indeed.

May your holidays be filled with light and love and peace!