Celebrate the Holidays with Hope not Stuff

Are you trying to keep your life in balance while honoring the complexity of this time of year? If so, look at what’s most meaningful to you. And then focus on what you want to do, not on what you think you have to do.

This year let go of the idea of a perfect Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa.

Even though it’s important to honor the tradition of giving, the accumulation of material stuff can’t hold a candle to the gift that matters most. And bringing cheer to others is a great way to bring joy to you as well. So as you lay the groundwork for change in your rituals, treat yourself to a healthier holiday by keeping your stress in check:

Give to a worthy cause. Get a group of friends together and make dinner at a local shelter. Buy a present for a homeless person you pass regularly on the street and make eye contact when you give it. Make a donation to the favorite charity of those on your shopping list who already have everything.

Give yourself a break. Announce that the holiday meal is potluck and ask your guests to bring a signature dish. After dinner, accept their offer to help clean up and don’t feel guilty. Others like to be involved. And you’ll have the time and energy to enjoy their company and participate in the festivities.

Find connection. Put heart in your relationships. Arrange a regular date with your parents and invite them to lunch, a museum or the movies. Drive an elderly neighbor to the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment or the library. Send a card to a long lost friend – enclose a family photo, your email address and a promise to keep in touch.

Find peace of mind. Take down time and curl up with your partner or a great book, watch the ballgame with your teens, take your grandkids to the park. Instead of worrying about the extra dessert calories, use that energy to take a brisk walk. Cut down on expenses by exchanging memories instead of things or giving a service IOU to babysit or help with chores.

These ideas will cost you hardly anything but time. And when money is tight and life is challenging, support means a lot. Relax into the idea of peace of mind. The gift of hope is sure to fit those you care about, and there will be no frustration about mall mob scenes or product recalls.

As you create the joy of simpler days, you’ll see that small changes can represent a new beginning. Take heart as you give a little that feels like a lot. And in these hard times, that’s a good lesson for all of us.

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