Guest post by Ruth Riley
How are you preparing for the 2021 holiday season? It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for epic parties, feasts, and ceremonies. It’s also practical to reserve some time during the giving season for gratitude and self-care.
Here are four elements to make this year’s holiday season even more festive.
A Season of Self-Reflection
What Is Self-Reflection?
The holiday season provides an ideal time to reflect on the past year. You’ve made it through another 12 months, and that means something. However, thinking about the past year’s events is just part of the process. Self-reflection is also a practical step to take as the year winds down.
Self-reflection provides a time to think about, review, and examine yourself, instead of just remembering what happened. Dig deeper! Think about the main takeaways from events of the past year. This time is ideal for asking yourself some big questions about the previous months: what were the main lessons you learned? What were your biggest accomplishments? How can you improve yourself during the next year?
One tool that can help with self-reflection is your My Giving page on Every.org. With this personal giving reflection tool, you can see how you gave and how much you gave to see whether that was inline with your expectations. Your Giving DNA breaks down all the causes you’ve supported. Reflect on the causes you’ve fallen in love with, continue to support, or ask yourself which causes you want to support more next year.
Self-reflection is easier for some people than for others. Sometimes it’s not easy to focus on our mistakes or weaknesses. However, you can experience the most growth by taking an honest look at yourself.
Here are some tips to help you make self-reflection more effective:
- Make sure you’re asking yourself some critical questions
- Use a reflection process that complements your preferences
- Schedule some time for reflection
- Start with short self-reflection sessions
- Get help from friends or relatives
Possibly the biggest roadblock to self-reflection is to start doing it. For example, after writing your self-reflection questions, take the time to answer them.
A Season of Gratitude
Self-reflection can lead to a sense of gratitude. Gratitude is more than saying “thank you.” Research shows that gratitude affects the brain and can improve mental health.
A study by the University of California (Berkeley) showed that writing a weekly letter of gratitude may improve people’s mental health. The researchers concluded that gratitude letters seem to improve the mental health of people, including those with and without mental health issues.
Besides providing several psychological benefits, you can take various steps to weave gratitude into your day-to-day life as the giving season approaches. Here are some methods to become more grateful this holiday season:
Start each day with meditation: Even if you’re going through challenging experiences, take some time to be grateful for having a new day.
Maintain a gratitude journal: Write down big and small things you’re grateful for in life. Review this journal whenever you’re feeling down or experiencing a “rough patch” in life. Be grateful daily: At the end of each day, take time to think of at least one thing you’re thankful for about the past day.
A Season of Giving
Studies have shown that giving your time or with donations can increase your overall happiness. Giving can not only benefit your psychological state but also be contagious. In other words, if you give the gift of giving, you encourage others to take that action. This process can create a “ripple effect” of giving.
There are many ways that you can give this holiday season. Here are just a few ideas:
- Explore ways you can give your time to a local charity through VolunteerMatch.org, get matched based on skills at Catchafire.org, or find opportunities at volunteer.every.org.
- Write letters for lonely seniors or make homemade cards for sick children.
- Invite your friends and family to volunteer with you or come together to create gift baskets or care packages for people in need.
- Use your crafting skills for good by knitting or crocheting beanies for people undergoing chemotherapy, or sending a colorful drawing to troops overseas.
- Discover reputable nonprofits and causes to donate to on Every.org including organizations working in the environment, disease prevention, food security, justice, and more.
A Season of Mental Wellness
While the holiday season is generally a joyous occasion, it can cause negative emotions, including sadness and stress. The preparation can seem endless! Meanwhile, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has caused so much stress in many people during the past two years.
Fortunately, you can take steps to deal with such situations. For example, plan ahead, be realistic, and get help and support when you need it. As mentioned above, research shows that giving can be beneficial for mental health. It’s another reason to consider giving during or before the holiday season.
This year, consider making self-reflection, gratitude, giving, and mental wellness part of your holiday season tradition. It can be your gift to the world and yourself.
1. Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It) https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it
2. How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
3. Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
4. Giving thanks can make you happier https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
5. 8 Simple Ways to Give and Why Giving Is Good for You https://psychcentral.com/blog/8-simple-ways-to-give-and-why-giving-is-good-for-you