After a year of ups and downs - and, let's face it, plenty more downs - you can help raise everyone's spirits (including your and your family's) by beginning your Christmas decorating early. 

While you don't need to go tree shopping just yet, there are ways you can start decking the halls ever so subtly without overdoing it or being too obvious. Plus, why wait? Experts say people who put up Christmas decorations early tend to be happier, and who couldn't use a double dose of happiness right about now?

Personalize Your Christmas Cards

The faster you're able to round up your spouse and kids - and maybe the family dog or cat, too - for a holiday photo session, the easier it will be to navigate the hectic holiday season. As such, design and order your Christmas cards well ahead of the curve in order to be one step ahead of everyone else. This way, you'll have more time to arrange and personalize your Christmas cards, without the stress of hurrying to get them out in time.

Decorate Your Home

When it comes to decorating your home, what worked in 2015 or even last year may not cut it or feel as unique for this upcoming holiday season. Plus, you're bound to come across some broken Christmas lights or ornaments or misplace other charming trinkets. First things first: Take stock of your existing inventory of Christmas décor. What do you already own that you plan to use this year? What items are on your wishlist? While you may want to save the ornament-bedecked wreath for the front door for a date that falls a little closer to Christmas, a holiday wreath in a subtle hue or a wintry theme can pull double-duty. Ultimately, though, it's all about making your home cozy and comfortable with the jewel tones of the season.

Brighten Things Up

As the winter months approach, the lack of daily sunlight can feel as though the sun has disappeared, which can impact your mood and overall mental health. If you find that the darkness of winter affects your psyche, try to get outside and experience as much sunlight as possible either with friends or solo. Other ways to combat these fleeting feelings include changing lifestyle behaviors and taking on light therapy, "where a special lamp called a lightbox is used to simulate exposure to sunlight."

Plan Dinner Ahead

Nothing says you need to wait to begin planning your holiday menu. If planning meals and treats is your thing, you can use the time now to get a leg up on what you will eat and when. Pick up holiday-themed cookbooks from your local library well before everyone else has the same idea. If you enjoy cooking and baking, take on more complicated dishes and have fun in the process. Even if it's only your immediate family gathered around the holiday table, it doesn't mean you can't try out new recipes and tweak as needed. Why not start a new food tradition?

Deck the Halls

Add a dose of cheer to your front door or tuck Christmas cards around your home. Light candles to supply a much-needed warm glow wherever you are. No matter how you choose to ring in the holiday season, or when, it is possible to decorate early without annoying your neighbors.