I heard recently about an organization that takes "at risk" youth from the inner cities, those from low-income families and rundown neighborhoods in the U.S., to other countries, like Africa, to volunteer in the villages. The goal is to show them what "real" poverty is like. The purpose isn't to belittle their personal situation, but rather to show them that there are people out there who have it much worse. Most important, what volunteering also does for the inner city youth is give them a sense of worth. On a day to day basis they feel like they have nothing, but on their trip they are able to give to someone else, which definitely boosts self-esteem.
Under normal circumstances the last thing someone would think to do in order to deal with their own problems is help someone else with theirs. But there is an intrinsic value to being able to help someone else. Feeling down this holiday season? Not enough money for the gifts you want? Travel plans aren't coming together? Take the opportunity to make someone else smile. Something as simple as volunteering your time to help someone wrap gifts, or decorate their home. No time? You obviously have the Internet. Send someone an e-card who you know is having a rough time. It doesn't even have to be planned, help a mother with their stroller on the escalator at the mall, or help a grandmother carry her granddaughter's mini-convertible to her car. I guarantee you that being the facilitator of someone else's happiness will make you happier.