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By: Dr Afiniki Akanet, author of Fortitude and Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress)
Posted on: Nov 30, 2020

Alternative Ways to Countdown to Christmas

With all that has happened this year, I can imagine that many are looking forward to seeing the end of 2020 and hopefully having a better 2021.

We would usually be talking about what we want for Christmas, and where and who to celebrate with by now. However, COVID-19 social restrictions have got us wondering whether we might even be able to spend Christmas with our extended family this year.

Whilst 2020 has been a different year than what most expected, there are still things we can be grateful for. When we are grateful for life and even the sanity we have to worry about our problems, we are able to see things from a more hopeful perspective.

As some of us are still struggling to lose the weight we gained during lockdown, maybe now is the time to substitute the chocolate ​advent ​calendar for some alternative Christmas countdown activities.


If you are like me and you struggle to find time to call people for a proper catch-up, this could be a good idea for the days leading up to ​Christmas​. Try making a list of all the relatives, colleagues, and other people you have been meaning to call or visit. Intentionally make time in your diary to call or visit one of them each day or each week, depending on how many you have or want to fit in (and also on government COVID-19 restrictions). You will find that there will be so much to say, and you will feel reconnected when you purposely reach out to them.

We may not all get to sit around a big table and do small talk this Christmas, but we can have some real conversations and check on loved ones before the big day. You will be surprised how many will prefer this gesture to an ordinary Christmas card in the post.


The unemployment rate has gone up in many places due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You might be blessed to have a secure job, or you might have recently been made redundant. This is a good time to reflect on what skills you actually have and what you can do to prepare yourself for a tougher job market in 2021.

There are many free online courses, helpful books, and educational videos. If you decide to spend one or two hours a day learning something new and developing yourself, you will be surprised what you can achieve before Christmas.

If you are struggling to find motivation, you can check out my ​‘Happiness Over Stress’ YouTube series for daily reflections to help you redesign your life for the new year.


If you already have things you are good at or would like to do better at, forming a daily practice habit can be a good way to countdown to the new year. Instead of waiting to play the piano only at weekends, for example, imagine how much better you could play if you practiced every day from now till Christmas. Another good possible outcome is that you may end up enjoying the practice and forming a daily ​habit to carry into 2021.

Having a deadline for the new habit makes it feel less painful - a bit like giving up something for only 40 days for Lent - than finding out afterward that you do not need to go back to the old habit. This could also be applied to habits you might want to break. Try avoiding junk food or fizzy drinks until Christmas, and you might be surprised how much weight you lose.

Writing a Gratitude Journal


There might be only a few weekends until Christmas, but if you planned something fun for each one, the time would fly by quicker. There might be limited options with the current social distancing measures, but we can get creative with this one.

Set up a challenge or experience for each weekend - you will probably be telling people all about it until the next weekend when you have another one - and it will be Christmas before you know it. It can be outdoor activities and things that do not cost much, such as visiting new parks, volunteering for a charity, walking new paths, doing something common a different way from usual, or trying new recipes for your Sunday meals. If you have some cash to splash, try new restaurants, ​test drive different cars, or redesign your living space. Think of a few things you can still do before this year ends.


Take five minutes every day to ​write down something you are grateful for. Even if you only wrote 20 things before Christmas, that would be plenty to help you have a merry Christmas.

There are people around the world, and even in our own country, who would be so grateful to have just half of what we have. Life is not about how much we have or do not have, but about how many lives we touch. We may be sad about losing family members and/or friends this year, but we can choose to celebrate the memories we have of them and be a blessing to others while we still have life.

There is no guarantee that 2021 will have fewer problems than 2020, but we can choose to have a good and grateful attitude whatever comes our way. Let us look after each other, stay safe, and stay positive, as we countdown to another special Christmas this year.