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During the holidays, my mom gets depressed. I don’t blame her, she doesn’t have a mom, brother, or grandparents anymore. I knew how hard Christmas would be, so I put together a basket full of compliments and encouragement she can look through anytime she needs it. To this day, she keeps it next to her desk. Some days when I can tell she needs it, I bring the basket to her and read a few.

I  love the holidays for two main reasons: Christmas and winter break. But when winter break comes to an end, the threat of looming tests and projects start to draw in like storm clouds. Instead of a basket, I put compliments and encouragements in a jar. But I decided to go further, and thus the Happy Box was formed.

What is the Happy Box you may ask? Well, it’s a collection of coping tools to be used to relieve you of stress, urges, or any period of distress. It’s a safe haven to express the built up feelings that accumulated over time through objects that don’t in any way trigger bad thoughts.

The most important thing to any Happy Box…is a name. Well, not really, but I personally named mine Abigail Elizabeth III. The most important thing is what’s going to go into the box itself. There is no definite list of ingredients because Happy Boxes are unique and personal to the one who creates it. Several types of methods are found in each Happy Box.

The first method is the self-soothing method. This helps calm you down through your five senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste. For my Happy Box, I put in some quotes, a candle, a stuffed animal, putty, a slinky, fluffy socks, a blanket, a list of my favorite songs, and some caramels. This, of course, are not the only things that can be added. Some more could be artwork, lotion, Mardi Gras beads, stress balls, white noise, an eBook, or brownie mix.

The second method is a distraction. These help divert your attention from the situation. I added sudoku and crossword puzzles, string, and Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. Other possible inhabitants of your Happy Box could be books, knitting, movies, websites, puzzles, or music.

Another method is doing the opposite of whatever negative emotion you’re feeling. I put positive quotes in my Happy Box, but you could write or draw positive pictures and statements or something you find funny like funny Youtube videos, movies, or books.

Becoming aware of what you are feeling is another method. In my Happy Box, I have a journal and The Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa M. Schab, LCSW. Of course, it is highly unlikely that we’d have the exact same Happy Box, so other ideas in yours could be art/writing supplies, a feelings chart, or other workbooks to help alleviate unwanted feelings or impulses.

The grounding and bringing yourself back to yourself method is also quite common amongst Happy Boxes. A yoga mat, meditation techniques, rocks, a zen garden, or breathing exercises are seen often in Happy Boxes.

A crisis plan is the most vital method of all. This is a list of phone numbers that you can call when the other methods don’t work. Your family and friends, therapist, psychiatrist, 1-800-273-TALK, and 911 are all important numbers to include.

Once all of ingredients have been added into the Happy Box, decorate it in any way you please! I cannot emphasize enough though that this Happy Box is to be designed so that there are no triggers at all. Put items that bring good memories, happiness, and comfort in time of need.