Have your Christmasses become a bit matchy-matchy? Change things up with these tried-and-tested tips for having a deliciously different holiday this year, says Anna Hart
1. Make a regift pact with your mates
Skip pre-Christmas presents giving with your closest mates, and instead meet up on Boxing Day, or in the New Year, to regift the quality stuff you've received that just isn't you. We've all been given pricey perfume that's too sweet for us, lipgloss shades we'll never wear, and DVD boxsets of shows we're halfway through on Netflix. A regift pact saves you money and storage space, and you'll all end up with something you really love. Forget regift-guilt; it's definitely better a well-meant gift goes to someone who wants it, rather than languishing pointlessly in your cupboard until next year.
2. Get app-happy
Many of us eagerly anticipate Christmas, but then find the social whirl stressful and overwhelming. It's amazing how quickly we feel off-kilter when we're separated from elements of our normal routine - like yoga class, your morning jog, a veg-packed lunch, your weekly Homeland-and-pedicure ritual - that keep us sane the rest of the time. Thankfully there are some cracking apps to help you keep your healthy habit ticking over through the holidays, wherever you are. Yogatoday.com offer a 30-day free trial subscription to their extensive catalogue of yoga classes, so sign up and get bendy before breakfast with the family. And the brilliantly user-friendly mediation app from Headspace offers a 10-day introduction to meditation, with a new 10-minute class every day. Give it a shot over the holidays and you'll start 2014 with an amazing new zen-making routine. (And a raging voice-crush on Andy, the voice of Headspace. You've been warned.)
3. Have a digital detox
Relax, we're not suggesting you go off-grid entirely. That would be nuts. However, for many of us, the Christmas/NYE stretch is the only time in the year when we're not expected to respond to emails within a two-hour window. If this is the case, it's daft not to make the most of it. Check your emails every morning, then resist temptation to refresh for the rest of the day; every 24 hours should be enough. Think about leaving your phone out of your bedroom at night - you really will sleep better for it. And don't spend hours on the sofa ignoring your own family to scroll through other people's Facebrag exploits. The truth is, if you're having an amazing Christmas, you're way too busy to be posting a million updates and pictures about it.
4. Give yourself
The festive (not to mention freezing cold) season can be tough and lonely for homeless and disadvantaged people, and therefore volunteer opportunities abound. In London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, Crisis run Christmas Centers providing the homeless with food, support, shelter and much-needed treats. They need 8,000 volunteers to make this happen, and you can either sign up as a general volunteer, or register your special skill (everything from nursing to dentistry to makeovers). Elsewhere, contact your local Salvation Army, who run homeless shelters and need your help. You get off the sofa and that delicious warm fuzzy feeling from helping others, so it's win-win. And if you get the volunteering bug, check out do-it.org.uk for year-round opportunities across the UK.
5. Get creative with your Christmas cards
If you just scribble your name after the printed message and fire off your cards without a thought, you're missing a trick. These days it's rare to get something other than utility bills via snail mail, so make your cards count with personalised, heartfelt messages. Pro Tip: A glass of red wine and some non-annoying Christmassy tunes should get you in a suitably sentimental and semi-literary mood.
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