Four Tips to Make the Holiday Season Count

Greater Good Science Center.  Really?  I didn’t remember “liking” any such institution on my Facebook page, but now these interlopers were sending me updates. Just as I was about to send them to “unlike” purgatory, the link itself caught my eye.

Gratitude vs. Materialism

Okay, now I realized who they were.  GGSC researches emotional and social well-being and even better, finds ways to apply their findings.  The organization might want to rethink its name, but the headline intrigued me.  So off I went to explore.  Quite honestly if I wrote as many hours as I “explore” I might turn out three books for every one I actually do. 

As it turns out, this post was part of a blog by a sociologist, Christine Carter, who studies happiness and explains how her findings can help us raise happy children.

Are you surprised to learn that if we actively practice gratitude, our perception of the world changes and we’re much less apt to be critical?  And did you know that children, who are raised to appreciate the world around them–as opposed to all the things that world should give them–turn out to be better students, more socially integrated and less likely to be depressed?  They also tend to reach out more often to people in their community in need.

The blog, Raising Happiness, is well worth reading, even subscribing to, whether you have children or not, and I heartily recommend it.   But what did I take away from this particular post about making my own holidays brighter?  Like most people at this time of year, I fall prey to materialism, particularly in this final week before gifts are opened.  I rush and worry, and eventually, I stop thinking about what’s really important.  So after giving Gratitude vs. Materialism some thought, I came up with the following list.  There’s nothing revolutionary or new here, but simply things we already know and sometimes forget.

1–Focus not on the gifts under the tree but on the holiday traditions that stress family unity, reaching out to others, the importance of love.

2–Do something wonderful or unexpected for someone in need, not because you want to remind yourself or your children how much better off you are, but because you want to share the blessings in your own life.

3–Take a few minutes when you’re with friends and family around the holiday table and tell each other what you’re grateful for, including them.

4–Keep a “gratitude” list.  Maybe it won’t replace your shopping list, but it might alter it a little.  Or a lot.  Because if you know what you’re really grateful for, won’t that be the “gift” you most want to share?

These are values we usually stress during our Thanksgiving holidays in the United States, and other countries have similar traditions.  I just want to extend the season.  I’d like to make my Christmas about gratitude, too.

I’m off to make my own gratitude list, and it should be no surprise that you’ll be on it.  Thank you for visiting me at Southern Exposure this year.  Whatever holiday you celebrate in the coming weeks, may it be a good one.

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