It’s true that we are actually happier and healthier when we invest in experiences rather than “things.” Studies show that memorable moments give us a sense of purpose and make life more meaningful. The real gifts of the holidays are the people we’re with and the memories we make, rather than the material objects tucked under the wrapping paper. So that giant mess your kids made baking holiday cookies in the kitchen is actually a good thing!
As humans, what we really crave is connection. We all want to feel happy and loved. When we experience these types of positive emotions, we strengthen our vagal tone—a nerve that helps us regulate everything from heart rate and blood pressure to digestion of food and our mood states. Strengthening it means we’re also less likely to be anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed. We are more likely to spread our happiness everywhere and use that positivity to fuel our own decision making, like going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating our vegetables, and moving our bodies. This is what I call “spiraling up.” Feel-good emotions lead to feel-good choices. They build on one another and open up our hearts and minds, like a broadening funnel, and ultimately contribute to a beautiful life. Isn’t that really the best gift of all?
Give Small, Connect Big
Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, expensive, or come wrapped with a bow to have meaning. The smallest of gestures can deepen our connections by the simple act of kindness. Spending time with others, like hosting a minimalist potluck dinner even though your house is a mess creates upward spirals. Doing something nice for someone you care about creates upward spirals. Donating goods, from canned foods to clothing, or volunteering to make a stranger’s life a little brighter creates upward spirals. The key factor is that you have to choose what you want to do—not just pick something out of obligation to feel uplifted.
Be mindful of the meaning behind your actions. When I take my girls to buy a toy for a child in need, they learn that we are the kind of people who help our community members. They recognize that counting presents under the tree is not the point of the holiday season. They build character and learn how to become good people. These are valuable gifts to me and motivate me to keep going. Plus we’re strengthening our bonds.
“Spiral up” with My Holiday Kindness Advent Calendar
This holiday season is especially meaningful to me. I’m counting down the days to the launch of my first book, Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out—and Never Say Diet Again. Every day until December 27, the book’s official “birthday,” I’m sharing simple ideas for celebrating all the goodness the holiday season has to offer with inspiring activities for food, fitness, and building feel-good emotions. Join me and you’ll get a taste for the Body Kindness health and happiness philosophy along the way.
Start by making this “spiral up” jar. Write one positive quote or something you are grateful for on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. At the end of the month, you’ll have thirty one inspirations you can surprise yourself with every day for the rest of the year. (Hint—these make great homemade gifts too!)