Giving to Yourself this Holiday Season

What’s on your wish list for the coming holiday season? Do you buy presents for yourself, wrap them, and put them under the tree for yourself like I do?!

Here are a Baker’s Dozen gifts you might consider giving yourself as we head into the holidays.

1. Quiet – set your phone on airplane mode for a few hours during a time of day that you’d normally have it on.

2. Imperfection – Allow yourself the grace of not earning an “A+” for every holiday task. For example, if you send out holiday cards or put up a tree, tell yourself, “it’s okay if I send out cards in January!” Or, “It’s okay if I decorate my tree with lights only…and skip the ornaments and icicles.”

3. Rest – take a nap if you feel exhausted…especially if you think “I can’t afford the time for a nap!”

4. Inner-Connection – reconnect with yourself; listen to what your heart is telling you, and then follow through with its message of wisdom.

5. Curiosity – consider one tradition of the season that you’d like to let go of.

6. Creativity – consider one new tradition of the season that you’d like to start.

7. Ease – Curiously seek ease when a task seems hard. Ask, “What’s a simpler way to do this?”

8. Gratitude – If you sense frustration, depression, or lack, pause and feel (as deeply as you can) a sense of gratitude for something/someone in your life.

9. Team Up – if you notice you don’t have an answer for something, reach out to someone. For example, if you’re baffled by what to get a certain someone, call a friend who might be able to brain-storm ideas!

10. Theme — invite yourself to have a theme for this month that makes life seem lighter, more joyful, more meaningful. What’s your theme?

11. Compassion — Extend compassion to those who may not be as mindful and enlightened as you are this season. Extend compassion to you when you forget to be mindful and enlightened!

12. Values – do anything that honors your values! If you love Learning, stop and watch a TED talk, read an “What’s Inside” chapter from Amazon, take a course…and then share with someone else what excited you about what you learned!

13. Laughter & Love – if you find yourself getting stressed over some holiday madness, stop and laugh about it. Think about all your other fellow human beings on the planet who may be experiencing similar stress and send them warm wishes of light and love.

Give to yourself one, some, or all of these gifts, and notice which works best for you personally. You’ll be a gift not only to yourself, but to others, when you do.


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Two Contrarian Choices for When You’re Not Feeling Grateful

It’s November. Thanksgiving is around the corner. It even hits “early”—in the third week of the month instead of the last. Are you ready? November. It’s here. The month of gratitude, thanksgiving, abundance.

Gratitude is a great feeling. It’s the gateway drug to all sorts of good stuff—more happiness, less depression, more empathy, less aggression, better health, longer life, and more.

But what happens when gratitude is not there? What happens when you just don’t feel it? Instead, you feel discouraged or tired or just plain blah.

If you can’t muster it, here are 2 contrarian quick tips for jump-starting gratitude.

TIP #1: DON’T BE GRATEFUL (for a bit)!

Compassionately acknowledge where you are. Rather than force yourself into feeling gratitude, try out being self-compassionate about where you are. Have a talk with yourself, or journal a bit. This is step 1. For example, “Okay, I recognize that I’m not feeling grateful right now. I recognize that what I am feeling right now is tired, a bit cranky, and a little scared about where all the money is supposed to come from for the upcoming holiday season.”

Caution: Don’t add on judgments or meaning to your acknowledgement, as this can give more space to the negative (e.g., don’t add, “I’m such a hypocrite—I can’t even walk my talk on this gratitude stuff” or “I should have saved more money for Christmas presents”). I repeat: don’t do this!

Step 2: Next, add gratitude for your self-awareness. For example, “And as I recognize what I’m really feeling, I’m grateful that I have the self-awareness to be able to know where I am. I’m grateful that I can allow myself to feel a full range of emotions without judging myself. I am grateful that I am continually learning.”

Step 3. Linger over the gratitude. Focus on holding it for 10 seconds longer than you thought you could. Picture a loved one as you linger over the gratitude. Or picture a Divine Being or white ball of beautiful energy. Your mind is a powerful tool for creation.


If you’re not feeling it, chances are someone else is. Connect with another human being, and you’ll boost your odds for gratitude. Oxytocin will be released, and that always makes us feel better. Consider connecting with:

  • A bone marrow buddy who knows how to listen empathetically, without guilting you into “you should be grateful!”
  • A random stranger in the parking lot or in the aisles of the grocery store—share a warm smile, let your eyes twinkle. Feel it.
  • Send an appreciation text to someone. In two sentences state a trait you admire about them. Press send.

Bottom line: Choose to do something mindful, self-compassionate, novel, or fun. Want more tips? Here’s an earlier blog on “Choose Your Mood”!

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What To Do When Your Toughest Critic Is You

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been my toughest critic.  When things are going well, leave it to the backseat driver in my brain to remind me where I fall short.  And when things are NOT going well…yikes. These are the things you need to remember when your inner critic starts piping up:

  • Your inner critic is probably wrong.  She’s everyone’s least favorite gardener who specializes in seeds of doubt, and someone really needs to keep her away from the vegetables.  Your garden is for growth and nourishment. No weeds allowed.
  • Judgment causes anxiety.  Trust me, no one needs more of that.  There are a lot of things that deserve your attention, but your self-criticism is not one of them.  Sure, sometimes we need to improve, and there are kind, caring ways to tell ourselves how to meet those goals.  Insults have no place in self-improvement.
  • One mistake does not define your character.  Forgetting a small detail one time does not make you incompetent.  Running late because your car broke down does not make you unreliable.  Give yourself room to learn. It takes time to navigate new environments and develop new routines and habits.  Mistakes are just part of the learning process.

In your life, you are behind the wheel, which means YOU are in charge.  It’s time to let your backseat driver out of the car. Drop her off at the next coffee shop, buy her a latte, and let her have some chill time.  You’ll appreciate the break.

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The Evolution of Mindfulness: From Mindful to Meaningful

The human brain loves to make sense of things—to categorize, to judge, to evaluate, and more. With mindfulness becoming a commonplace word in today’s corporate world, we have become much better at simply noticing… noticing what we see, what we think, what we feel, how we act.

More recently, researchers are positing the idea of not just mindfulness, but re-appraising our mindfulness into what is meaningful. For example:

  • Mindfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset.
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset. For me, it represents the faithfulness of Life to provide me with an opportunity to reflect back on the beauty of my day.

Meaningfulness reminds us of both what we want, as well as the values that are important to us.

Here’s another example of taking Mindfulness to Meaningfulness—this time in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances:

  • Mindfulness: “Hmmm… it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood toady; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too.”
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: “Hmmm…it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood today; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too. And what I really want is to use this as an opportunity to remind myself that I want to respond rather than react to challenging circumstances. This honors my values of creativity and positivity.”

When we connect what we observe (mindfulness) with what we want and value (meaningfulness), we shift from stagnation or victimhood into movement or creatorhood (that’s probably not a word, but I’ll be creative!). We can then say, “Here are some ways I can… (e.g., be responsive rather than reactive in this circumstance).”

Try it out today. Mindfully notice what you notice—without judging or ruminating. Then move toward Meaning by adding the “what you want” and “value to honor.”

May you have many meaningful moments today!

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