It's that time of year again when most of us get into that revved up shopping mode, trying to get or make that perfect gift for everyone on our list. It can be an exhausting process, not to mention wallet-draining, at a time when many people are struggling just to make ends meet.
And, in order for us to be able to truly give to others, we first have to fill our own well, so we invite you to think about gifting from a different point of view:
* Give yourself the gift of courage -- When you are feeling down or discouraged, or maybe lonely or not living up to your own holiday expectations, muster up the courage to reach out, call a trusted friend, and share your feelings. It is in the sharing of our humanity, the acceptance of our own imperfections, that we learn to cultivate self-acceptance and compassion. And, the more we practice and this skill, the better we get at it, and the closer we feel to the people around us.
* Give yourself the gift of authenticity -- If this were the last holiday season you were ever going to celebrate, what would you do with your time and your money? Taking action by living from our authentic selves is enlivening and life-enhancing.
* Give yourself the gift of generosity -- Volunteer your time with an organization this holiday season that reflects your deepest values. When we give to others who have less than we do, or who may be struggling to get their feet on the ground, we get to see ourselves as a contribution. We also get to connect with the common humanity that we share with all people.
* Give yourself the gift of acknowledgment -- Pay attention to the times when you act from your heart, with love and kindness, and give yourself an appreciative hug.
* Give yourself the gift of time -- Schedule small joyful activities in your calendar, like sharing a glass of wine with your best friend, and be present to how you feel when you stop to connect with someone that you love.
* Give yourself the gift of patience -- Trust that you are exactly where you need to be, that you are doing the best that you can, and that everything that you truly need will show up at the perfect time.
* Give yourself the gift of laughter -- A great time to do this is when your neighbor rings your doorbell and your house is a wreck -- learning to laugh at ourselves and our imperfections is a great way to experience the perfection of life exactly as it is right now.
* Give yourself the gift of gratitude -- By practicing gratitude, by acknowledging the abundance in our lives every day, we balance our tendency towards scarcity with the experience of being cared for and supported. When we hold the space for goodness, when we train ourselves to see goodness in the world, it has the habit of showing up for us.
When we cultivate these qualities in ourselves -- courage, compassion, authenticity, generosity, laughter, gratitude -- or whatever qualities call to you -- we not only tend to feel better physically and emotionally, but we also see these qualities in those around us. It's good medicine, not only now, but all through the year.
We wish you holidays that are rich with family, friends, and wonder. For a great and inspiring read on this subject, check out Brene Brown's book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" (Hazelden Publishing, 2010).
Judge and Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif.