By Dr. Carol Cole, Ph.D., LMFT
Many of us find the Christmas season is often as stressful as it is joyful when it comes to gift giving. We want our gifts to be perfect for the person, memorable, and still fit within our budget. How can we transform our approach to this wonderful, yet sometimes chaotic, part of the holiday?
Our attitude toward gift giving is as much a part of the stress as the actual shopping. By using some of the principles of Transforming Change you can make this process more joyful.
First, acknowledge that giving and receiving are part and parcel of the same dynamic. They are like the yin and yang of a circle; you can’t have one without the other. So as you are preparing to give, you are also preparing to receive.
Second, ask the question, “What am I doing?” On the surface you can answer, “Giving a gift.” Yet underneath you can answer, “I’m burdening myself with perfectionism, projecting unrealistic standards, trying to outdo someone else, trying to win approval,” and a host of other stress-inducing behaviors.
Once you’ve exposed the thoughts that are feeding the stress, use your power of conscious choice to rise above it. I call this “up-leveling” behavior. To up-level this situation, ask the question again, “What am I doing?” This time answer simply, “I am giving a gift.” Then, examine what that means.
Rather than unconsciously allowing it to focus on only one part of the dynamic (the gift—meaning the gift has to be “perfect, memorable and within budget”), you can focus on the action part of the dynamic and allow the gift to flow from the meaning of the action. What we are doing is giving a gift. The giving is part of the gift.
When the intent is to give from our heart (where love and connection thrive) and not just from our head (where all that perfectionist stressful stuff lives), you find that great gifts flow from you. To give is to present or bestow voluntarily, without expecting compensation. What do you want to bestow upon those to whom you give gifts? What will you bestow upon yourself as you give gifts? In other words, what are you receiving as you give?
G = Gratitude
I = Inspire
V = Value
E = Experience.
Gratitude is the foundation and the energy behind all good gifts. Gifts that carry the essence of gratitude for the person’s presence in your life and for your ability to share with him or her are welcome gifts. Begin with a grateful heart that you know someone so wonderful that you want to bestow upon them a token of your gratitude for being in your life. Also, allow yourself to feel grateful for the ability to pay for or to create a wonderful gift. Extend that gratitude to everyone who assists you in the transportation, selection and wrapping of the gift. Keep your heart open and flowing with gratitude. Then you will more easily recognize a wonderful gift to give. Gratitude gives you joy and inspiration.
Good gifts reflect Inspiration. They acknowledge how the person inspires you. A gift may also reflect what you hope to inspire in them. Maybe you see something in them they have not nurtured. You acknowledge that quality by giving a gift that inspires them to see that quality, therefore demonstrating that you value them.
Values are reflected in the gifts we give. A gift says that we regard the person enough to bestow them with a token of our esteem. As we select something for one whom we treasure, we also cherish our own time, budget and traditions. True value is found in the heart, not in the wallet. It is found in the process of giving and receiving. If you really want to decrease stress and increase joy, try consciously participating in the experience by acknowledging that as you give, you receive and as you receive, you give. It all becomes one, as hearts connect and share in joy.
So in this season of lights, use the light of consciousness to up-level your experience of gift giving. Make it your intent to G-I-V-E with joy in the process.