Mama, you've earned a night off! Between a schedule crammed with activities and the daily dramas of raising children, investing a couple of hours hanging with your friends can make a world of difference in your emotional and physical health.

And experts agree that making time for yourself increases happiness for you and your family.

"As moms we know that our children need down time to recharge their batteries and nurture their brains; however, we don't always take our own advice or practice what we preach, particularly when it comes to ourselves," says Maria Bailey, host of Mom Talk Radio, Author, and founder of National Moms Nite Out.

As the days grow colder, many of us are less likely to spend time outside seeing friends and neighbors. Schedule a mom's night out activity, send out an evite, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to see how many friends make arrangements to meet up. Here are a few ideas to get your party started.

Host a "Favorite Things" Party

Scratching your head about what to get the people on your holiday gift list this year? This event might give you some clever ideas. Share your favorite kitchen gadget, make-up item, or household product with your friends! Set a price limit and invite guests to bring three of the items to the party to exchange. Participants take turns showing off their favorite product and then gift their items by pulling the names of three friends from a basket. Provide each guest with a complimentary notepad and pen to keep track of ideas or clever tips. Here are some more ideas for hosting a Favorite Things party.

Schedule a Paint and Sip

Studies suggest that engaging in an artistic endeavor can have a calming effect, lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress. Head to an art studio, pottery place, or a class at a craft store. Many places hold "ladies night outs" and invite you to bring snacks and wine. Relax into the role of beginner and let go of perfectionist worries. You may surprise yourself with your abilities. And if not, you'll at least have enjoyed a memorable evening out with friends. No clean-up required!

Coordinate a Book Swap

Do you and your friends love to read? Invite them to exchange used books, cookbooks, and magazines. Stephanie Perry,, suggests providing post-it notes so your friends can share their thoughts about a particular book. "As they peruse, guests can write in their own responses, and some interesting 'conversations' can result," she says. For more ideas from Perry, see her post. Donate extras to your local library.

Stock the Freezer

The holiday months are crammed with evening activities which can make planning dinner difficult. Schedule two hours on a weekend to exchange crockpot meals. Agree on a budget in advance and choose guests who have similar dietary requirements. Each friend should arrive with enough four-person servings for the number of attendees. For example, if five friends participate, each should arrive with five meals. Check out this site for additional ideas to host a freezer meal exchange.

Get Crafty

Is there a holiday craft project on Pinterest you want to try? Gather your friends for an evening of delving into your favorite crafts or finishing up lingering projects. Turn on some background tunes, include buckets of supplies, share techniques, and inspire each other.