The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time of the year, but for so many it’s fraught with stress and added pressure to be perfect, the perfect gift, the perfectly decorated house, the right outfit for New Year’s.  These are just material concerns that rob us of our joy when we make them the focus of the season.  Rather than focus on perfection, focus on the larger picture, simplify your celebrations and connect with people. Finding true meaning in the holidays will bring you joy and happiness. Reach out and touch someone, I know it sounds like a lame telephone ad, ok so it was. It’s true though, in a day when we rely heavily on digital means of communication, texts, emails, voice messages, and social media convos, we may feel connected and yet isolated at the same time.  Pick up the phone, FaceTime or Skype with family and friends connect with them.  Don’t discount the hand written note either, most people will greatly appreciate the thoughtful gesture.  It will make them smile and brighten their day.

Practice random acts of kindness. Taking the time to give back expands your gratitude and lets you find peace and joy in a harried season.  Whether it’s a simple gesture of dropping spare change into the Salvation Army kettle, holding the door for a mom and her kids at the mall, or providing Christmas gifts for disadvantaged youth, celebrate the season by helping others. Do you have any Christmas Cards left over from year’s past? Send a few to the troops serving overseas and brighten their season.

Watch your budget. This time of year, it is easy to lose track of our spending only to be surprised later. Avoid any undo financial stress by setting a spending limit with your family and friends and sticking to it. Make the holiday special by agreeing to give handcrafted items, either items made with your talents, or the talents of a local artisan. The gifts will be from the heart, selected just for that person.  If you look for gifts at the local art show, you will be benefiting a small business owner rather than a big box retailer.

Don’t feel compelled to have every nook of your home decked out for the season. A beautifully decorated tree, stockings hung, and a wreath on the front door is really all any home needs. If you usually bake dozens of Christmas cookies but don’t have the time this year, let it go. Santa will be just fine with a few protein energy bites instead of sugary cookies.

Relax and find the bigger meaning in the season by focusing on the little thoughtful gestures and not the big materialistic manufactured allure of the season.  You will find more joy in the smaller things than you will by stressing yourself out competing with others.