So delighted to have Marc Winitz of the inspirational health and wellness site Be For Living here to discuss gratitude. We did not collaborate but I believe I have found a kindred spirit in this message.
Yes give the gift of gratitude!
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of giving, but we often focus on “gifting”. And this gift may be a new iPad, a bike, or maybe a good book for a friend, family member or loved one. While these are all perfectly fine gifts, the action of “gifting” misses the larger point of giving. Because the process should really be as much about what is behind the motivation to give as the gift itself.
Unfortunately, our gifting culture (remember Black Friday?) is now a very commercialized process that focuses on spending money—sometimes money we may not even have—simply to feel good about ourselves. If you recall shoppers pepper spraying each other the day after Thanksgiving simply to be in a better position to get that discounted Wii or Nintendo, you know exactly what I mean. Hand to hand combat at a retail store emphasizes this time of “gifting” and not truly “giving”. And it misses the point entirely.
This holiday season, I encourage you to become more personally involved in giving. And by that I mine giving of yourself, rather than gifting of a material thing or item. Why? Because this type of active personal involvement in giving is an exercise in gratitude itself.
Giving of yourself—whether that be of your time, thoughts, money or thanks—is a personal exercise. And it is one that has real and valuable meaning. This meaning is important because the act of giving should make you feel as good as the person receiving whatever you are offering. It serves as a direct exercise in experiencing gratitude and delivering it to others.
Here are four ways you can meaningfully exercise the act of gratitude this holiday season:
- Tell Someone How Important They Really Are In Your Life – Often times we tell ourselves that giving a gift will demonstrate how we feel about someone important to us: a significant other, a spouse, or perhaps a good friend or even co-worker. But rather than simply giving them a present, tell them how important they are to you. Let them know you appreciate how they are there for you when you need them, that you appreciate the advice you give (no matter how positive or difficult that may actually be to hear), or that they simply make you laugh and you enjoy their company. You can tell them face to face. Or, if that is too personal or difficult, let them know in a handwritten letter (not an email). This is a personal exercise, but that is one critical element when experiencing gratitude.
- Thank Your Supporters – Consider telling those people that help you in everyday life that you appreciate their efforts. These are not necessarily close relationships but, never the less, supporters are people that make a difference, no matter how small, in your daily life. This may include a child’s (or your own) teacher, a babysitter, or perhaps a music or athletic instructor. Sit down for 5 minutes and think about how they have helped you or your family this year. And then go tell them personally and specifically that you appreciate what they have done for you or your family this past year, and that you value their help. Doing this is more meaningful as an expression of gratitude than a physical gift.
- Donate to Charity – This can be a powerful expression of gratitude simply because times are so tough in the current economic environment. Rather than pulling out the pepper spray at Wal-Mart to get that home entertainment system, set aside some of that money and give it to a charity you find important. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money either. $10 or $20 in this economy can make a big difference. On a personal level, I am amazed at how few people actually give to charity. Yet this simple act can provide such enormous gratitude from others. Pick a charity that is important to you so you know that the money you are giving supports something you believe in. If you are stuck as to who or what to give money to, check out www.kiva.org an organization that provides micro loans to help those living in poverty to become self sustaining entrepreneurs. Or have a look at www.kickstarter.com, a fast growing and very clever crowd sourced giving community that funds personal projects for people who may not be able to get important projects off the ground otherwise.
And if you simply don’t have the money, give some of your time. Charitable organizations always need support. Help a food drive collect goods or distribute them. Or just volunteer your time for a few hours in a way that can help an organization.
- Thank Someone You Don’t Even Know – This last suggestion is something that is truly missing in the national conversation right now given the political polarization that currently exists. Try this holiday season to transcend that regardless of your beliefs and tell someone you don’t even know that you appreciate what they do. Perhaps this is the checkout person at your neighborhood grocery store, your gardener, or a school crossing guard.
Recently, I was getting coffee and a woman from an organization called Blue Star Moms of Marin, a local charity that provides supports to our military overseas, approached me. Her organization collects donations and puts together care packages that get sent to soldiers stationed overseas. I donated to her charity but more importantly I thanked her personally for the work she and her family were doing and involved in. It is not easy being in the military, and even harder for military families, especially during the holidays. I could tell she appreciated what I said, and it cost me nothing to communicate my gratitude for the sacrifices she and her son were making on our nation’s behalf.
This holiday season take an active role in the process of giving of yourself to others and give the gift of gratitude. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and the personal meaning can be the greatest gift of all.
Senior technology executive, 4th degree black belt and personal development and food blogger Marc Winitz believes Eastern traditions and approaches to daily living have a direct correlation to successful long term health and wellness. A long time teacher of traditional Japanese karate, and a practitioner of yoga he is also the author of several blogs. His latest project, Be For Living, explores Western medical and Eastern philosophical approaches to optimal health and wellness.