The season of celebration has turned into the season of stampede. Buy! Buy! Buy! Hurry, before it’s too late! Advertisements tell us to beat the crowds, be the first person in line, and, most importantly, win the “prize” of the best deal. Let’s bring our focus back to the true meaning of this season—love. Rather than concentrating on the things people are trying to sell us, we should think about the people gathered around us, how much love they give us, and how much we can give them in return. Concentrate on how you can help others and give them the gift of you.
Keep in Touch
The holidays can be stressful. For instance, college students have to contend with the end of the fall semester. I remember I couldn’t enjoy the countdown to Christmas until after my finals were over. Businesses and their employees are rushing to complete projects before the break. And, of course, everyone is worried about getting their shopping done for gifts and parties. When things get busy with work, school, or family life, we tend to forget who we are and what’s most important.
So, keep in touch with yourself. Do not leave projects and essays for the last minute so you can get enough sleep. Fuel your body properly with a healthy diet. Staying grounded and centered with who you are enforces your presence to those around you. If you have a strong sense of yourself, you are better able to give yourself to others. You deserve the encouragement and love needed to stay true to yourself.
Build a Dam
Controlling the streams of input that deliver this deluge of commercialism will allow yourself to be able to give the gift of you. Take a social media break and be fully present with the ones you love. Facebook and Instagram are some of the biggest conduits for modern advertising, so keeping the pipeline open will only feed your brain with that urge to spend.
And it’s not just corporations. Your friends posting their hand-crafted Christmas ornaments and shrewdly thrifted ugly sweaters can also make you feel like you’re not doing enough. This feeling is false, though. All you need is right in front of you.
Make the decision to build a dam against this river of commercial messages. Limit your access—iOS 12 actually gives you tools to control your screen time for specific apps. Or, go even further and temporarily deactivate your accounts until after the holiday. When you’re going to spend time with friends and family, cut off the digital stream entirely.
As soon as you get to your holiday gathering, turn off your phone, and don’t turn it back on until you get home (or, sure, if you need the GPS, you can use it on the drive back.) Taking control of the messages you receive will put you in charge of your experience of the holidays, and it will help you be present and giving to those you love.
Recharge Your Relationships
Use the holiday season to recharge your relationships with the people you love. There is nothing like spending time with your loved ones fulfilling holiday traditions—baking cookies or pies with your grandmother. If you are gathering with family you haven’t seen in a while, take the time to reconnect and remember why they mean something to you (even if it means listening to a twenty-minute lecture about your uncle’s model train collection).
Reflect on how you show your affection and how you make others feel. Take notice of the smiles, laughter, and the hugs and kisses you spontaneously receive. Your relationships can be rejuvenated by your appreciating what these people mean to you remember what you can offer them.
Giving to Those in Need
Beyond your friends and family, think of the ways you can give the gift of you to other people in society. Go and volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit a nursing home and spend time with those whose family are not nearby. Giving your time to those in need will shift your focus. You’ll be concentrating on how you can help rather than how you can “win” the deceptive holiday competitions for attention, and you’ll gain an understanding of your own blessings. This is the season to make an extra effort to give and show love to those who need it the most.
Shop with a Different Intention
If you STILL can’t avoid the call to spend money, there are ways to do so while still helping others. Drop a dollar in a basket for a charity that helps the poor. Donate some cans of food to a food pantry. Buy gifts again for those who are in need for a clothing and toy drive. Your giving will always overtake the commercial message, because giving creates peace and fulfillment, whereas commercialism is designed to create neverending wants and needs.
One action is a ripple effect to greater good. Let’s not pretend that need and poverty don’t exist. This will connect you and bring you closer to the true meaning of this holiday season—love.
Season of Love
The holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration if you choose to make it so. Love is always with and around you, no matter your circumstances. Always. So, you must draw from it. Enter into a quiet and peaceful place in your heart and mind and you will find love. When you find it, nourish it and make it grow strong. Reflect on what you are grateful for as this season of love asks us to do—give the gift of you.1
Also published on Medium.