It begins around Thanksgiving…that subtle yet noticeable change in people’s behavior. We become more conscious of all we have to be thankful for.

It continues right through the end of the year…that holiday spirit that leaves many of us feeling a bit more generous, open and loving toward our fellow man. We may be moved to donate a bit more to charity, support a food bank, donate toys to needy children, or even just hold the door for a stranger.

Then we turn the page on the calendar and enter the new year, and just like that, the feeling is gone. Most of us quickly jump back into our normal routines; many of us bleakly face the coldest and darkest months of winter without that warm holiday glow.

What if that spirit could stay with us for more than just the last few weeks of the year? How might we approach each new day, interact with our families, friends and colleagues, and feel as we lay our heads on the pillow and turn out the lights, if we could only manage to hang onto the holiday spirit all year long?

January is often the opportunity for goal-setting. Each year we make a new list of New Year’s resolutions, promising ourselves that we will do better, finally lose weight or de-clutter the closets or balance the checkbook. This year, as you think about those lofty goals, why not resolve to keep the holiday spirit alive for a bit longer? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Keep a gratitude journal or simply make a mental list of three things you are grateful for every morning.
  • Select a charity whose mission aligns with your personal values and set up a monthly donation schedule.
  • Make kindness a habit by going out of your way to perform one act of kindness every day.
  • When ordering your morning coffee, anonymously pay for a coffee for the person in line behind you.
  • When you are in no particular hurry, allow the person in line behind you at the grocery store to go ahead of you.
  • On the road, yield to another driver who is trying to change lanes rather than maintaining your speed.
  • If your finances allow, give more than the standard 20% tip to your server when you go out to eat.
  • Offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt or offended you.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Take a moment to compliment someone on their efforts.

At the end of the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge transforms not only the lives of those to whom he extends generosity, but his own as well. By opening his heart and his wallet, he metamorphosizes from a mean, miserly loner into an exuberant, happy man. The message is clear: the spirit of the holiday season can transform us and the world we live in. The trick is to hold onto it for more than just these few weeks in December.