Have you made your list and checked it twice? Have you purchased all the gifts needed to cover everyone on that list? Is each gift wrapped with a perfect bow and nestled beautifully under the Christmas tree? Are the holiday parties planned and the delicious food prepared, ready for the seasonal celebration?
Tis the season of wonder, joy, and … stress! Just reflecting on all of the seemingly must-dos can make anyone’s head spin especially this time of the year. And if it makes yours, don’t fret. You are among friends. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people say their stress increases during the holidays.
Holiday stress can come feeling that there is so much to do and so little time to accomplish it all. Among the multitude of stressors, gift giving could possibly be the star on the top of your stress tree. How has something that was meant to bring joy become something that leaves you overwhelmed? Finding the right gift can be like a needle in a haystack.
But does it have to be?
What if the way to manage holiday stress and embrace the true meaning of gift giving all comes down to how you see it in the first place? And possibly, could it be impacted by your attitude toward it?
Gift giving is an art, not a science.
Brianna Strand knew that best. As the heart and soul behind Choose Your Attitude (CYA) — and the cornerstone of the book, Loving Someone Who is Dying — she knew the power of a gift, and she was determined to make every gift count. Literally.
“It wasn’t until after Brianna passed that I realized how powerful her gifts were,” Nicholas Strand, founder of CYA, recalls. “She was always spending a great deal of time not just finding a perfect gift for someone but making it. She loved to make gifts. It brought her as much joy as it did the people that she gave them to. And, after she passed away, I realized how those gifts were ones that myself and others truly cherished and would for years to come.”
What most people stress about Brianna embraced. She loved this holidays. She loved gift-giving. But what she loved most was using her talents to create something meaningful and memorable. It wasn’t about how much the gift cost; instead, it was about how much joy the gift brought. And the more joy, the greater the experience.
As you fumble through the rest of your Christmas list — fretting over if you’ve spent enough yet or purchased a large enough gift — consider asking yourself this question.
What is the reason for the season, and how can I share joy most?
You may be surprised that it likely isn’t found in a toy that is sure to break … a trend that will likely go out of style … or a must-have that will be easily forgotten within days after opening. It may, instead, be found in something different altogether.
There is power in giving gifts, just ask kids. They always know.
When you can pry them away from electronics, kids really do say profound things.
Maybe it’s because they still carry an innocence; the world hasn’t taken away their ability to dream big, speak their truth, and see the good in most things. Maybe it’s because they can sense feelings without getting caught up in their own. Or maybe it’s because they know something we don’t. Maybe they know the real meaning of life (and of gift-giving).
When asked about the spirit of the season, here are some profound statements made by few children who hadn’t a clue just how powerful their points are.
“Even if you don’t like the present, it’s the thought that counts.”
“When you give, it feels good.”
“The gifts I like the most are the ones where we can play together.”
“I like to give stuff that I can make because the person I give it to likes it more.”
“The gifts I remember the most are ones where we go places.”
“This season makes me feel good because giving makes me people feel good.”
“Getting gifts makes me feel happy, too!”
“I like joy and loving of this season; that’s what I like the most.”
“When I give a gift, it makes me feel happy because everyone has a smile. It makes me feel giving, which feels really good. It makes my heart beat.”
Sure, they’d love Nintendo Switch games and Pop Its. They wouldn’t turn down a Barbie or a Lego set. But when they reflect on what they remember most, it’s how this season of gifts makes them feel — both in giving and in receiving. And their thoughts are enlightening.
Maybe there’s truth behind Buddy the Elf’s famous phrase: “I just like to smile; smiling's my favorite.” When we give gifts that matter and mean something, we can’t help but smile. And maybe smiling is really what makes our heart beat.
A gift has much power.
Reflect for a moment on a favorite gift you’ve received. Maybe it’s an item you cherish; one that you just couldn’t live without. Was it perhaps less about the item itself and more about the person who gifted it to you? Gifts have power and that power can do so much.
Gifts can uplift someone.
There are two sides to all of us — the side the world sees and the side only we do. While someone may appear polished, put together and on top of it, behind closed doors, they may be hanging on by merely a thread.
An unexpected gift may remind them of their worth and that someone truly cares. It may be less about the gift itself and more about the act of receiving it. And it very well may uplift them to do something that day they may not have otherwise.
Gifts can leave a legacy.
Do you cherish a family heirloom? Has a gift been passed down in your family? Do you occasionally pull out old birthday cards from grandparents who have since passed or open up a photo album and smile at photos that captured memories of people that are no longer with you?
Gifts can come in the form of time, experience and memories, too. And those gifts leave a legacy. The gifts Brianna made continue to spread hope without her having to. They share a message of love and of giving and will continue to for years to come. When you give a gift, you have the power to leave a legacy.
Gifts can change everything.
And we aren’t just talking about physical gifts here. In fact, while a physical gift can be game-changing, there are many others that can be lifesaving.
Consider the gift of an apology and the gift of forgiveness. Those gifts that rebuild relationships, rekindle friendship, and unexpectedly provide another gift … the gift of peace.
The gift of a phone call could brighten someone’s day and the gift of a hug could make them feel loved. The gift of a listening ear could make someone feel heard while the gift of time can make them feel seen.
The gift of grace, even in the thick of mistakes and challenges, could give someone the ability to learn from their situation and grow from it. And never forget the gift of unconditional love … for that gift is definitely one that makes your heart beat.
You may never know the power of your gift, but that doesn’t change the fact that you should give one anyway.
Consider giving gifts of meaning.
This holiday season, as you continue to consider your gift giving goals, why not pepper in a few gifts of meaning. While these gifts are ones that you may not be able to wrap, they are ones that will wrap you in warmth, because they uncover the true value of the season.
Gift an experience.
Time. It’s something we cherish. So, bottle it up and gift it. Create an experiential gift, and it’s promised to be one that both parties will always remember.
Some experiential gift ideas could include:
- A gift card to a local museum, the movies, or another experience that both you and the person you are gifting it to would enjoy. (Remember, be sure to include time with you in the gift, too, so you both can cherish it.)
- A surprise day, filled to the brim with unexpected experiences that you both will enjoy. This could include a day hiking and a special picnic to enjoy together half-way through. Or, what about a day at home, complete with breakfast in bed, a day watching movies and playing puzzles, and finished by a dinner (cooked by you) of their favorite foods!
- A weekend getaway to another city (or even a hotel stay in yours) where you both are physically distanced from the hustle and bustle of your daily expectations and can appreciation the company of one another while also creating a new experience together.
These gifts are great for anyone — children, spouses, friends, and parents alike. Consider what lights them up (what really makes them smile) and plan an experience around it. They are promised to remember that experience for years!
Gift your talent.
Some of the best gifts aren’t those we buy; they are the ones we make. Consider your special talents, as there is likely a gift-giving opportunity nestled within them.
- Give a craft gift. Maybe this year, instead of purchasing gifts, you purchase supplies and share your crafting skills instead!
- Give a written gift. Instead of gifting books written by others, maybe you can gift your own writing. Create a meaningful poem. Jot down a special message outlining how meaningful that person is to you. Or, consider using a program such as StoryWorth where you can actually gift a story, too!
- Give the gift of art. Whether you would consider yourself at an artist level or just some who loves to paint, draw, doodle, or color, a hand-crafted piece of art from you is something worth gifting and cherishing.
- Give a gift you’ve cooked. They always say that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. If you have a passion for cooking, provide someone a homecooked meal. Bake them a tray of delicious sweets.
Gift a gift that keeps on giving.
Some gifts aren’t seasonal. They don’t have to be put away with the holiday decorations, only to be pulled out one time a year. These are gifts that have power. They are gifts that change. They are gifts that remind others of their worth, of what is within their control, and of their power in changing the lives of others.
Here at Choose Your Attitude, we believe that one of the best gifts you could give yourself or gift to another is the reminder that you are the keeper to your own happiness and your own success. Those gifts start within. They can’t be bought or borrowed. They evolve from how you see the world, how you see others, and how you see yourself.
While you can’t change if your in-laws will hit the one button of yours that may make you want to unravel around the dinner table this season, you can choose the attitude that you bring to it. (Thanks for the eggnog; this year it comes with a side of positivity!)
While you can’t ensure that the physical gift you give (or get) is one that will be well received, you can listen to the wise words of a child and remember that it’s the thought that counts. (And you can control your own thoughts!)
And while you can’t promise that the season won’t be filled with heartache, challenge, worry or tears, you can make the conscious decision to find the joy in the moment, the beauty in everything, and the peace that this season offers. (Because when you choose your attitude, my friends, you are choosing to create your life.)