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It’s holiday season and many of you are making lists of gifts to give and receive. I know that I am! I have friends that are amazing gift givers; they always come up with great ideas. I have other friends that always seem to finish their shopping before Thanksgiving even arrives. Sigh; you know these folks. I envy them. It’s not me. Sometimes I struggle to come up with good gifts; though I do love the experience of trying to think of a gift that will bring surprise, joy, and a smile. But we all know that all the frenzy of the season can also distract us from what is truly meaningful in this season of reflection, light, and giving. Too often, it becomes a season of stress, sadness, and disappointment. There are excellent antidotes for this….and they’re free! In this season of giving, give yourself and others these gifts. The three gifts below are practices that inspire peace, plant seeds of happiness, and build strong bridges in relationships. Priceless gifts to give and receive!
The first gift is gratitude. When we count our blessings we feel better. When we let others know that we are grateful for them in our lives, we strengthen our relationship with them. It is a gift to yourself and the other person. What if one of the gifts you gave this season was a handwritten note, letter or card telling some one in your life what they mean to you? Want to feel more grateful for all that you have? Offer to give of your time or resources to those that have less. Be of service; offer to be helpful. Gratitude gives us perspective. It shifts our focus from our problems and complaints to the things we are fortunate to have in our lives and that are going well. When we notice positive things in our lives and our good fortune to have people in our lives we care about, we feel better. Relationships being some of the true riches of our lives. In the twilight years of our lives, most of us will count those we love as the most important “things” in our lives; not our “stuff.”
The next gift is acceptance. Acceptance is a broad gift that can come in many forms. We can accept ourselves, others, and life. We can accept the things we can’t change. We can accept others as they are, realizing they have limitations and we can’t change them. This reduces our suffering because we stop fighting what is. Fighting things we can’t change is exhausting and useless. It just causes us suffering, disappointment, and frustration. Acceptance of others’ limitations can be an especially valuable gift to yourself and others as you gather with family and friends over the holidays. Expectations about how celebrating “should” be or how a family member “should” act often just lead to disappointment and conflicts. Maybe even more important is self acceptance. When you are less critical of yourself, you open a space to be more kind and understanding of yourself. When you are more kind and accepting of yourself you won’t need to be as defensive about your limits. You will likely be able to more realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses. With acceptance of yourself, you don’t need to be better or worse than any one else. You can just be. It’s easier to grow and change from this place of acceptance.
The third gift is compassion. Compassion goes beyond acceptance and beyond empathy (feeling some one else’s suffering) to being understanding of some one’s suffering and moved to offer comfort or kindness. What a gift to give yourself; to acknowledge your own suffering and be moved to be understanding and comforting of your own pain. To be gentle with your own mistakes, understanding it is part of your humanity to fall down. Understanding. Kindness. Comfort. A trifecta of compassion. As a gift to yourself, compassion promotes resilience, well-being, and being a more caring individual towards others. Compassion for others offers gifts of kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. When we give the gift of compassion to others, we unburden ourselves of resentments and conflict and open our heart to stronger loving connections. Another gift to others that gives back! It makes us better friends, family members, parents, and intimate partners.
The things you buy and wrap to give and the gifts you receive will give you momentary joy….but the pleasure of stuff doesn’t have staying power. The gifts of gratitude, acceptance, and compassion continue to feel good and bring pleasure. This year, try giving the gifts of gratitude, acceptance, and compassion. Tell some one how important they are to you; be specific! Cut yourself some slack, and while you’re at it, accept the annoying qualities of a family member (or two or three). Forgive some one. Open your heart to what and who are good in your life. Judge less, love more. Watch these gifts provide more peace and joy than shiny objects and high tech gadgets. They are timeless, free, and will help you feel truly rich.
Wishing you these gifts and more this holiday season!