We all say that December is the season for giving and generosity, but what to we actively do to make that a reality in our habits, homes and daily interactions with others to represent that spirit of generosity? Is it just an afterthought? Do we get totally consumed with gift-hunting? Do we do it out of duty? What's the real reason why we give? How do we role-model authentic giving to our children and within our families?
The answer to those questions seems to be related to our perspective of gratitude. Gratitude is the practice of being thankful for the present, thankful for what we have now and the practice of appreciating the moment. These thoughts are so powerful they can actually change the chemistry in our brains to help us feel happier and more content. The practice of giving with purpose and meaning stems from our ability to be grateful, and in turn, our gift giving can become something we do with care, compassion and sincerity. This type of giving has the potential to be so much more powerful and moving to be remembered many Christmases later.
To my parents' credit, I grew up in a home where gratitude was important, and shown in many different ways. My mother would sometimes buy presents for poor families that we knew in the community, and would share her delicious baked goods with others. But probably the most memorable and influential act was inviting a lady called Dawn for Christmas lunch every year. Dawn was intellectually disabled, and absolutely looked forward to this meal with delight. She was great fun and it was a joy to see her so happy that she could be included at someone's table. That gesture of authentic generosity came from the position of gratitude and that its a good thing to share in what we have.
This is not always easy, or necessarily convenient, but it can change how we feel about ourselves and those around us. Here are 24 ways that could encourage greater depth of gratitude throughout this Christmas season. You may choose to do one each day, or select a few to focus on. You may wish to make one or two a tradition in your home in future years. You could even select one as a challenge and something new to do, as an opportunity to grow and develop new habits.
- Show gratitude for what you have by participating in a reverse Advent Calendar, get everyone in the house involved.
- Put up a wreath and contemplate new beginnings, for you and others. Be grateful for second chances and give that chance to others, decide to be patient today.
- Find a way to connect with a relative who you haven’t connected with for a long time, or who won’t be with you at Christmas. Tell them what you appreciate about them.
- Be grateful for your talents, and consider a handmade gift that you can make for someone this year instead of a purchased gift.
- Be grateful for teachers and mentors. Write a note or card to someone who has given of their time and talents to each you or your children and express your gratitude.
- Find a way to be inclusive this Christmas and share what you have with others. Invite someone who may not have family around to your Christmas events and make room at your table for them.
- Identify something about your parents that they did for you that you appreciate and made a difference in your life. Even the bad experiences can bring about positive outcomes. If you can, tell them what you have appreciated about them, or light a candle and say thank you for those experiences.
- Give the gift of time today and spend time listening to someone, without interrupting or commenting, just ask questions and keep listening.
- Be grateful to the person who has served you in a store or on the phone today by smiling and being interested in how they really are, and feel your thank you when you say it.
- Be grateful for yourself, even on a bad day. Think of a positive quality about yourself and remind yourself throughout the day that you are worthwhile.
- Find something to compliment in someone else today. Make the compliment authentically and explain how you appreciate that quality.
- Take the time to write a review about a product or service that you have recently purchased. Be specific about what you appreciate about it express your compliments, as this can be incredibly memorable for those receiving the feedback.
- Share a connection today in a queue. Instead of looking at your phone, decide to connect with the person next to you and be interested to listen to their story.
- Be appreciative of your resources today and find someone who needs a random act of kindness. Perhaps someone in the supermarket, your neighbor needs an errand run, or a meal cooked. Give your gift of time to someone who needs a lift.
- Give a generous tip when you are eating out this month and express your appreciation for their service directly to your waiter.
- Be grateful for your food today. Before you eat, sit down and be consciously grateful for the food you have, whatever it may be. Eat a little slower and be mindful of the flavours.
- Make a date with a child. This may be your own child, a nephew or niece or someone you babysit. Turn the phone off and do something that they want to do with you and dedicate your 100% attention to them for that time.
- Others forgive you of your weaknesses, so show gratitude for that gift by being a little humble and saying a heartfelt sorry to someone for your own weaknesses and humanness.
- Decide that it is time to let go of an old grudge, and forgive someone of their mistakes.
- Find as many people as you can today to smile at and say hello.
- Clean out some cupboards in the kitchen, wardrobes or garage of things that don’t give you joy anymore, appreciate how they have served you as Marie Condo encourages us to do, and donate these things to a charity.
- Show gratitude to neighbours in your street. Bake a batch of cookies and bring them over, expressing gratitude. If it’s a neighbor who you may not know, take the opportunity to introduce yourself, no one will say no to home baked cookies.
- Make a list of all the things that have blessed your life this year in 2020, and good things that have come out of the struggles, challenges and tough moments.
- As you sit down on Christmas Eve, show gratitude to those around you and tell everyone there why you appreciate them or love them.