Grit Blogs > Mental Morsels With Dr. Cearley

How to Have a More Fulfilling Christmas

Jamie Cearley, PhDchristmas teddy bear

What if I told you that you were getting ripped off during Christmastime? A little abrasive I know, but many fall for a make-believe form of the holidays that leaves their emotions and their wallets hollow on December 26th.

Try these 8 actions to ward off those who would leave you feeling slighted come January, and have a marvelous, merry Christmas indeed.

1. Determine you will not go into debt for presents. The pressure of our materialistic society can be crushing at Christmas. The marketers are relentless in their quest. If only they would leave kids out of the equation, then maybe we would stand a chance. But no, children are the focus of their efforts. Indeed, Santa’s elves are no more than creditors in cute disguises with squeaky voices. How can you escape this pressure? Here are just a few strategies to help:

• Set a budget early on. Determine how much you have to spend on Christmas and stick to it.
• Do not use credit to buy presents.
• Get away from the media. When you can, turn off the television, the radio, or any other avenue where marketing is thrust upon you or your children.
• Stay out of the stores as much as possible.
• Kids do not need a multitude of presents to open on Christmas morning. Don’t fall for this lie. People of all ages are only capable of focusing on a small number of things at a time. A few thoughtful, quality gifts are far better than overwhelming a anyone with the number of gifts they have to open.

2. Realize you cannot buy Christmas. Take some time to contemplate what you think you should be so merry about come December 25th, anyway. Is it tangible? How do you get it? Is it a feeling? Is it an attitude? How much does it cost? Is it even real, or just fantasy? Most would say one or more of the following: Christianity, Jesus Christ, family, celebration, and gratitude. Priceless and joyous are each one.

3. Free gifts are the best gifts. Here are some ideas for low to no-cost “gifts.” All are sure to make memories, not anxiety.

• Pick up the phone. Give an old friend a call.
• Pack up the family and take a day trip to visit a friend or family member.
• Visit a nursing home or hospital.
• Take some vacation days from work and stay home.
• Go for a walk with a friend or family member.
• Make something from scratch with someone you love.

4. Remember those grieving. Remembering a grieving friend is a fantastic way to give a slap in the face to the unimportant facets of Christmas and re-focus on what matters most. For those who are missing a loved one, the holidays can be tough to manage. Knowing someone is thinking of them in a special way and recognizes their agony is priceless.

5. Forget about self. Most, if not all counselors would agree that serving others is beneficial to our personal psyche. There is something about giving of ourselves in any form to another that breathes life into us. Maybe this is the key to getting what you want out of Christmas after all — seek to make someone's Christmas merry and bright and forget about your own.

6. Show authentic kindness. The world needs more authentic kindness, not the phony kind. The real deal takes time, respect, and humility. Learn about phony kindness and how to be genuine in your kindness.

7. Make Christmas about less: Less stuff, less debt, and less busyness. Contentment can be hard to find at Christmas. If we are not careful, our stuff can begin to own us instead of the other way around. Less stuff brings more space, resources, and time. The irony comes to light of how much more we can have when we have less.

8. Make Christmas about more: More family time, more conversation, more listening, more service to others, and more giving. Throw in a dash of play, and you just might leave Christmas gratified rather than disgruntled.

Don’t feel cheated again this January. Get control over your spending, forget about yourself, serve someone, spread kindness, and make Christmas about more. May you start off the New Year pleased with your spending and feeling as though Christmas was indeed merry and bright.