by Jenny Gaal,Fitness Director

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa

The holidays are a time for gratitude, celebrations, family, friends, and, of course, gifts. However, most of us are bombarded with heavy advertising trying to convince us that we need the latest and greatest, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters and overlook the art of thoughtful gift giving.  Thoughtful giving comes from a practice of mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment without judgement, bringing greater clarity to the mind and more insight and creativity into life.

The holidays are the best time to practice the gift of giving. The concept of giving and receiving gifts is closely tied to compassion, love, and gratitude. When you give someone a gift, no matter how big or small, you convey that you were thinking of him/her—it’s a type of caring.  The true gift of giving is how you make someone feel when you offer heartfelt energy. Mindfully considering the person to whom you are giving is a wonderful way to express care and deepen connections.  Here is a list of the top tips for joyful giving:

1. Plan Ahead

The holidays can be crazy enough so plan ahead.  You don’t have to wait until the holiday frenzy begins. Start early!  Planning well ahead of the holiday rush season allows you the time and energy to brainstorm ways to make your gifts meaningful. It also reduces the stress of last-minute shopping or reaching for a quick, but not so meaningful choice.

Consider these questions to dig into the meaning behind your giving:

·         How do you measure the value of a gift?

·         What do you hope to convey to your loved ones?

·         How can your values be transformed into holiday gifts?

·         How do you want to share your energy with people you care about?

2. Give the Gift of Presence

We each have unique skills and talents. Offering someone your time and expertise can be a truly thoughtful gift and also deepen your connection. Material items don’t last forever, but the memories of sharing an experience or learning something new can last a lifetime.  Think about a skill you can share by providing lessons for a loved one. It’s a heartfelt way to spend time with a special person and share your passions. Teach them how to:

·         Cook

·         Play music

·         Paint

·         Take photographs

·         Practice yoga

·         Fish

You can also give your time and energy by creating a gift certificate for:

·         Babysitting

·         Gardening

·         House cleaning

·         Meal preparation

·         Lawn mowing

·         Massages

3. Share from the Heart

A heartfelt note can be a gift in itself. Offer forgiveness, gratitude, or love to remind someone you care about them and that they are cherished.  Letters that come from the heart show a mindful connection.  Similarly, gratitude or memory jars can be thoughtful gifts. Here’s how to put one together:

1.      Contact friends and family members of the recipient and have them submit special memories, a favorite photo, or something they appreciate about the person.

2.      Place these all in a jar, decorated box, or special journal.

3.      Give the jar to the recipient and encourage him to choose one memory each day during the upcoming year so he can see what other people cherish about him.

4. Personalize It

When planning a gift, think about who the recipient is and what he/she values. Recall what he is passionate about or what makes him laugh.  Use this to inspire heartfelt, personalized, and thoughtful gifts.  If your mom hates to run to the grocery store, consider a healthy meal delivery service, membership in a CSA for organic produce, or providing regular grocery runs for her.

You will find that a little mindfulness adds tremendous value to the process of honoring your loved ones during the holidays or anytime throughout the year.