Be friendly in February

Posted February 5th, 2019

Friendly February 2019 - Action Calendar image

Did you know that being friendly can make a profound difference to the well-being of others and ourselves? One of the most fundamental human needs is connection. Being friendly supports this and more, making people feel appreciated and respected. Acts of kindness actually have a positive physiological effect on the body.

As the late poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said, “People forget what you said and what you did. But they never forget how you made them feel.”

What is Be friendly in February?

Be friendly in February is a calendar of suggestions set out by Action for Happiness (see more about this organisation below). The February calendar offers a suggestion for each day of the month to encourage us to take action and be friendlier to others in our everyday lives.

So, what is the point exactly? Let’s take a look at what Action for Happiness represents.

What is Action for Happiness?

Action for Happiness are a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. They believe there is a need to prioritise the things that cause happiness, including building positive relationships and looking after our mental health (both important contributors to happiness).

Every month Action for Happiness publish an action calendar based on a theme to encourage people to make a greater contribution to bringing about better, more caring communities. This month’s calendar is a humble reminder that it doesn’t take much to be friendlier towards family, friends, colleagues and even strangers.

Why be friendly?

There are so many benefits to being friendly, and such kindness doesn’t have to be limited to the people we know. Treating everyone you meet in the same way as you would like to be treated will add meaning and significance to your life.

There are many people experiencing relationship problems, feeling despair, and some who are lonely and/or suffering from anxiety or depression. Being friendly to someone, whether you are aware of any problems or not, can make such a difference to their day. A small act of kindness could do much more than you think.

Being friendly makes you feel good and boosts your own happiness, as well as others. Generosity is hard-wired to the reward mechanism in our brain. Being kind to others is actually good for our own well-being. Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins (chemicals in the body that heal wounds, calm you down and make you feel good).

One study by the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, found half of participants felt stronger and more energetic after helping others, and many felt calmer and less depressed.

A report by Random Acts of Kindness states that perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population! Being friendly isn’t just good for those on the receiving end, it’s good for the instigator too.

Action for Happiness believe that helping others is the route to stronger communities and a happier society. Friendliness and kindness can have a domino effect. Why not take up the challenge and see what benefits being friendly in February can bring to you and those around you? It costs nothing, it could bring you the happiness you are searching for and it will have a positive impact on your physical and mental well-being.

Talking to someone when you feel overwhelmed can be really helpful. If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced counsellors about any problems you are experiencing, get in touch today.

Filled Under: Happiness

Five helpful tips to make 2019 a happy New Year

Posted January 4th, 2019

New year 2019 written in sand.

The New Year has begun! Whether you’ve planned your resolutions for 2019, or don’t have anything in mind, the start of the year is a great time to start thinking about the year ahead. Finding something new to try in the New Year can not only help you relax, but can also help to improve your mental health. Learn a new skill, or find a new way to relax – focusing on something new can help make positive changes that can help make 2019 a happy New Year. Take a look at these five tips below:

1 – Write down all the positive things that happen

Making a note of the good things that happen to you each day can help to create a positive mindset, which will also benefit your overall mental wellbeing. Start a gratitude diary, or keep a note of positive things that have happened so you can look back on them. Try and write a few things each day. These don’t have to be huge, life changing events, they can just be simple things that happened in your day. Maybe you had a nice time with friends or family, got some good feedback at work, or went for a nice walk. Writing these moments down will not only help you to remember them, but can reinforce a positive mental attitude.

2 – Try something new

The New Year is a perfect chance to try out something new and exciting. Maybe there’s something fun that you’ve always wanted to try, or even an old hobby that you’ve been meaning to revisit. You could try and learn a new skill, or maybe you’ve been wanting to learn a new language. No matter what you decide, learning something new can be a great way to build confidence, boost your mood and maybe meet new people. Remember to have fun and enjoy the experience of learning. If you find that you’re not enjoying it anymore or feeling stressed, its fine to take a break and come back to it another time, or maybe try something else that interests you more.

3 – Try out mindfulness and meditation

Jnana mudra Silhouette

Practicing mindfulness and trying out meditation can help you relax and give your mind some much needed downtime, as well as helping you in your day to day life. It is easy to learn, and there are many simple guides online to help you practise. A lot of the apps and guides available online also offer short sessions, so it doesn’t have to take up much of your time. Find a guide that works for you, then try and fit in a couple of meditation sessions each day.

Not sure where to start? Fortunately, there are some great mindfulness and meditation tools available for free. Here are just some of the apps that you could try:

4 – Take some time for yourself

Looking after yourself is important, and taking some “Me time” to relax and enjoy some time alone can help reduce stress and improve your mental wellbeing. It can also help you recharge and to prepare for the next day, helping you perform to your best ability. Remember that “Me time” doesn’t have to be something big, even taking a little time for yourself can help. Do something that you enjoy, or maybe take some time to try out some meditation. The important thing is that you get some time to relax.

5 – Get professional support if needed

If it seems like everything is getting on top of you and you’re struggling to cope, you may benefit from professional support. Our friendly and professional team at KlearMinds is made up of experienced counsellors trained to offer a range of therapies including counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and life coaching and can provide advice on a range of issues. If you would like to get in touch with us, you can do so by email on info@klearminds.com or you can call us on 0333 772 0256. All information you provide is handled confidentially.

Filled Under: Happiness

Counting down to Christmas

Posted December 14th, 2018

Fir tree with Christmas decorations

With Christmas in the air, December can be the most magical time. But rather than getting caught up in wish lists and the annual Christmas shopping frenzy, how about making this year a truly meaningful Christmas? Gifts don’t have to come wrapped and lying under the tree – it’s not about the money, it’s the thought that counts. We posted a heartfelt blog about this last year here.

And who says you have to wait until Christmas Day to give a present? Advent Calendars are a great way to celebrate every single day leading up to the main event, and they’re not just for children or come filled with chocolates.

Look at the Kindness Advent Calendar above and use it to perform an act of kindness every day in December. Did you know that 4th December is National Sock Day? What better way than to give new socks to a homeless person or shelter. On 13th December, cook an extra meal for someone who would appreciate it, and on 19th December give compliments to as many people as you can. You get the idea.

Obviously, you can make up your own gifts of kindness; there’s no need to rigidly stick to what it says on the calendar. The important thing is that you can use Christmas as a great opportunity to make someone, including yourself, happy.

Merry Christmas!

Filled Under: Happiness

The importance of eating mindfully

Posted July 18th, 2018
Woman Eating Healthy Breakfast

You’ve heard of mindfulness at work, but what about mindful eating? While our relationship with food is not always straightforward, it’s good to see that people are generally becoming more conscious about the food they eat.

Whether this translates into trying to lose weight or choosing organic produce, cooking from scratch or cutting down on processed ingredients, it’s an active engagement with what we put into our bodies – and that must surely be a good thing. However, when we put this much care into choosing what we eat, it makes sense to put the same amount of love into the actual eating of it.

Do you often hurry or even skip your meals? Stress, for example, can be a powerful appetite suppressant that isn’t healthy at all. Do you multitask while eating? Do you make family mealtimes a priority? By respecting mealtimes and paying attention to the ritual of eating food, we prepare our bodies to receive the full benefit of the food. And eating mindfully not only helps your digestion (that’s a scientific fact) and therefore your physical health, it has mental health benefits too. Mindful eating helps you to feel calmer, happier and more satisfied.

Here are 7 tips to help you to eat more mindfully:

1 – Eat proper meals every day

If you’ve got into the habit of snacking all day, skipping breakfast or eating at irregular hours, try switching back to 3 regular meals per day. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, keeping energy slumps at bay. What’s more, it takes our bodies around 3 hours to process meals after which it needs to rest. If you ‘graze’ throughout the day, you put more strain on the digestive system, making it sluggish and less efficient.

2 – Take your time over meals

In addition to taking regular mealtimes, it’s important not to rush our food. We spend such a small proportion of our day actually eating, and yet it’s an important time and process to nourish our bodies. Surely, even with stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles, everyone should be able to spare half an hour to sit down and eat properly?! Not only does eating more slowly, calmly and relaxed help us digest our food better, it’s an opportunity to really savour and relish each mouthful and enjoy the sensory pleasure of eating delicious food.

3 – Sit down while you eat

Grabbing a sandwich on the go or having a quick bite while you’re waiting for the train is a bad habit to get into. When we sit down, our bodies are at rest, meaning our energy can move inwards to the stomach and digestive system. Ever heard of ‘rest and digest’? That’s the state our nervous system should be in at mealtimes. Conversely, when we are standing up or moving around, the circulation is actively bringing blood to our arms and legs, while action hormones such as adrenaline are being released that are not helpful to the digestive process.

4 – Chew your food well

Digestion starts in the mouth – with chewing. If you rush your food and wolf down large mouthfuls, you are not getting the most from your meals. Good chewing allows you to assimilate the nutrients well – your teeth break down fibre and the saliva mixes with the food allowing the enzymes to break down the carbohydrates. Carb rich foods such as grains, beans and vegetables benefit particularly well from thorough chewing – and you will feel fuller more quickly. Try putting your cutlery down and chew each mouthful at least ten times.

5 – Make your meals screen free

Mindful eating means focusing on the process of nourishing your body. You can’t do that while you’re multitasking. However tempting it may be to eat in front of the TV, check your emails while having lunch or keep your phone next to you on the table just in case a message comes in, break the habit! Let mealtimes be just for eating and you’ll soon find that these times become small islands of rest and relaxation during a busy day.

6 – Make it look beautiful

Don’t underestimate the importance of the visual appeal of your dining area and the food itself. Wouldn’t you rather have your meals in attractive surroundings? And wouldn’t you prefer food that looked truly appetising to eat? Make the food look good with colour and garnish, served in pretty bowls and in an uplifting space, and feel the energy nourish you inside you as you’re having your mealtime break. Best of all, share the experience with family and friends and nourish your spirit too!

7 – Appreciate your meals

Rather than taking your meals for granted and viewing food as nothing more than fuel to get the body through the day, take a few moments to really think about where it has come from. It’s a humbling experience to truly appreciate the abundance of nature that makes it possible for all of us to be alive, part of the natural world that we live in. You don’t need to be especially spiritual to feel the interconnection between yourself and all other living things.

Filled Under: Happiness

How to get on top of your emotional spending

Posted June 11th, 2018

Woman with shopping bags

We all love a bit of retail therapy now and again, but when you get a buzz from the act of spending itself rather than from what you’ve actually bought, and particularly if you’re regularly spending more than you can afford, you might want to stop and think about what this might mean.

Put bluntly, emotional spending has nothing to do with shopping for things you need. Instead, you turn to spending money because of how you are feeling, such as in the following situations:

  • You’re feeling happy about something and you celebrate by going shopping.
  • You’re feeling unhappy with yourself and cheer yourself up by going shopping.
  • You’re feeling stressed about something and going shopping is a welcome distraction.
  • You’re feeling less than someone else and use shopping as a way to keep up with them.

A recent study showed that 19 million UK shoppers did so for emotional reasons. Emotional spending in 2017 led to a total of £26.5 billion in credit card debt – that’s a huge problem.

So, how do you know if you’re an emotional shopper? Well, ask yourself the following questions and see if one or several of them strike a chord:

  • Are you routinely trying to justify your purchases to yourself or to others?
  • Do you often feel worried or anxious after a shopping spree?
  • Do you make a habit out of hiding receipt, tags, shopping bags or any other shopping evidence?
  • Do you own lots of things you haven’t used or worn, or in fact forgotten that you had them?

If you’re affected by emotional spending, the trick is to understand what’s going on inside you, so that you can tackle the bad money behaviour. Here are 5 emotional motivations that can cause a disconnect between you and your financial decisions.

Learn to recognise these states, or talk them through with the help of a professional counsellor, and your decisions will soon become more intelligent:

Love and belonging

Do you have a problem creating meaningful relationships? You may buy things to meet the need of ‘feeling loved’.

Play and fun

Are you a workaholic? Rather than creating a better work/life balance, you feel the need to treat yourself to an expensive toy or holiday.

Personal power

Is your spending never your fault? If you feel that your life is out of control, or you want to get back at someone, spending may give you a false sense of control.

Lack of freedom

Are you feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship or job? Spending money may represent a situation where you can exercise choice.

Sadness

Are you trying to fill the emptiness that sadness can bring? Whether you’re struggling to deal with a personal loss or are suffering from depression, overspending can by a symptom.

Once you’ve decided to put an end to your poor financial behaviour, there are some practical steps and techniques you can implement straight away to avoid emotional spending. These include:

  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists, so you are less likely to be seduced. The same goes for store cards – cut them up and close the account.
  • Never save your card details on shopping sites. The temptation to shop with just one click is far too great.
  • When shopping online, ask yourself whether you intended to buy the item when you first entered the website, how much you need it and how you would justify the purchase to someone else.
  • When you go shopping, set yourself a firm budget and take the money with you in cash, leaving cards at home.
  • Identify your triggers and devise alternative strategies to deal with the emotion that doesn’t involve spending.
  • As a last ditch resort, use the 24 hour rule: Wait for a full day and see whether you still really want to buy the item before making a purchase.

If you feel that it would be beneficial to speak to an experience and sympathetic counsellor about your emotional spending habits, please call the team at KlearMinds in confidence or email info@klearminds.com. Our expert psychoanalysts, life coaches and counsellors are powerfully equipped to give you the best opportunity for positive results and help you achieve fast, lasting change.

How to create the ideal sleep environment

Posted May 25th, 2018

Man in bed suffering from insomnia

If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, keep waking up in the night or suffer from insomnia, there may be a hundred reasons why this is happening. Perhaps an underlying medical condition, such as chronic pain, an overactive thyroid or kidney infection is causing you to sleep badly. Sleep deprivation can also be a symptom of stress, anxiety, depression and a host of other issues.

Whatever the cause, if it’s interfering with your quality of life or stopping you from performing your daily tasks, something must be done. Obviously, your first port of call should be your GP who can investigate (and hopefully eliminate) any physical health problems that might contribute to your poor sleeping.

If you think the cause may be related to your mental health, counselling or psychotherapy may help. Here at KlearMinds, we have a highly skilled team who have worked with many different people, and therapies that are designed to help you achieve positive, lasting change.

Meanwhile, back at home, there are some practical steps you can take to create the best possible sleep environment for yourself.

Comfortable bed

It all starts with having the right mattress. If your body is not optimally supported, you won’t sleep well. Too soft, too hard – everyone has their own preferences, but do get professional advice on the type of mattress that’s best for your body shape and weight. Do you sleep on your front, back or side? Suffer from chronic pain? Try out different mattresses in the showroom and look out for manufacturers offering trial periods (typically around 100 days) with a money-back option if the mattress doesn’t pass the home test.

Tech free zone

Your bedroom should be a place for rest. By all means watch a film, answer emails or catch up with social media in the evening, but keep it out of the bedroom. In fact, it’s a good idea to ban all gadgets and gizmos – TVs, laptops, tablets, smartphones etc – from the bedroom altogether. Not only do they have the effect of stimulating the brain when you want it to switch into sleep mode, any lights and noises emanating from the devices can disrupt your precious sleep.

Relaxing bedtime routine

Make it a priority to view your bedroom as your personal sanctuary. If necessary, use the next weekend to declutter and decorate to create a calming, restful vibe. A nightly wind-down routine is a great way to prepare your body and mind for bedtime. There are many tried and tested techniques you can try including a warm bath, a hot cocoa or herbal tea (no caffeine or alcohol!), relaxing essential oils (lavender pillow, roll-on aromatherapy blends, yoga or breathing exercises, ½ hour’s journal writing or reading in bed.

Ideal room temperature

A cool bedroom (6-18°C) will aid your sleep, while a hot room (24°C+) will make you toss and turn. Make sure you have a choice of winter and summer bedding at your disposal and use it wisely. During the warmer month, airing the room before in the evening will maximise cool air circulation (but do close the window if there’s a draught). In the winter, have a hot water bottle or fluffy bedsocks ready for extra snugliness that will help you drift off.

The importance of darkness

Our body’s circadian rhythm responds to light and darkness – we are biologically programmed to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Work with your body by keeping your sleep environment as dark as you can, eg by fitting blackout blinds, having a ‘no light at night’ house rule, wearing an eye mask and keeping phones and computers out of the bedroom – the blue light emanating from LED screens actually suppresses the release of melatonin, which our bodies need to relax and fall asleep.

No noise

Finally, make sure your sleep is not disturbed by noise, either from outside (traffic, dogs barking etc) or inside (night owl teenage kids, snoring partner, household appliances etc). Sometimes, earplugs are the only way to get some peace and quiet! That said, while loud, sudden noises will wake you up, soothing continuous sounds can be helpful to fall asleep to. Why not try one of the many ‘white noise’ apps available, or one that plays soothing nature sounds?

Filled Under: Anxiety, Depression, Happiness

Build your resilience: Follow the Stoics

Posted May 11th, 2018

Vicenza, Italy, 20th September 2015. Marathon runners

Ancient Greece may not be the first place you think of when considering the concept of resilience, which is basically the ability to bounce back from negative situations, but it is the home of Stoicism.

Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in early 3rd century BC and teaches us that we cannot control external events, only our mental and emotional responses to them. It explores how negative self-talk can intensify and prolong our suffering.

As the saying goes: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’.

Psychology Today neatly sums up this approach: “By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.”

But the Stoics are often misunderstood and equated with being unemotional and indifferent to physical suffering.

In fact, the Stoics did not recoil from feeling grief, anger or pain any other emotion. Instead they focused on cultivating a level of detachment and observing their own thoughts. They thought that human happiness could be found only in accepting the present moment, rather than by being controlled by the pursuit of pleasure or the desperation to avoid pain.

The stoics preached working collaboratively and treating other people fairly and with empathy. They stressed the benefits of logic, self control and inner calm, something most of us could do with a large dose of.

The philosophy contends that the way to be happy is to live a virtuous life and that you should judge somebody based on their actions much more than their words.

The Daily Stoic has this to say about Stoicism: “Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate.”

Modern self-help books talk about resilience and mindfulness colouring books fly off the shelves, but they are both really based on Stoicism.

One of the most famous Stoics was Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 160 to 180AD, and some of his quotes are inspirational reminders about living an ethical, self-disciplined and humble life and treating fellow humans with kindness and compassion.

Meditations, his only major work, contains some profoundly moving statements and exhortations to live the most virtuous lives we can.

Inspirational quotes from Marcus Aurelius

Many of his thoughts focus on the impossibility of mastering outside events and accepting them with grace instead.

  • “The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”
  • “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”
  • “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
  • “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

On acceptance and action: “Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance, now, at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need.”

On wisdom: “You’re subject to sorrow, fear, jealousy, anger and inconsistency. That’s the real reason you should admit that you are not wise.”

Back in the days of Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius (all good Stoics) philosophy was about finding practical ways to live life, it was not as a theoretical construct removed from the reality of people’s lives, as it is sometimes today.

Seeing a trained counsellor can enable you to take a step back from your problems and help you get unstuck. Like Stoicism, it can give you strategies and solutions to help you confront difficult events and overcome pain, grief and sorrow in your life.

As Marcus Aurelius said: “No man can escape his destiny, the next inquiry being how he may best live the time that he has to live.”

Filled Under: Happiness, Self-Esteem

Try something new for 30 days

Posted March 6th, 2018

Did you know that it takes 30 days to form a new habit, or break an old one? If you’ve been wanting to make a change in your life – large or small – why not embrace the idea of a 30-day-challenge to see if you can make a positive impact?

If you need a bit of help or a large dose of inspiration, we recommend watching the short Ted Talk above, given by Matt Cutts 5 years ago.

Committing to a 30-day challenge can make a huge difference in your life in so many ways. By setting aside just a small amount of time every day for a month to devote to whatever challenge you’ve set yourself, you can gain more self confidence, feel empowered, more adventurous or simply happier with yourself.

Rather than trying to overhaul all your bad habits at once or make a drastic change to your routine which will be hard to sustain, you’ll be making tiny, almost imperceptible but progressive changes one day at a time, building upon your successes day by day.

Here are just some ideas of the sorts of 30-day-challenges you might like to consider.

Tackle an unhealthy habit

Whether you bite your nails, eat too much chocolate or don’t get enough sleep, use the 30-day-challenge to help you get on top of your unhealthy habit. Take it one day at a time and promise yourself a meaningful reward at the end of the month for having stuck to the challenge. If you need to, tell yourself that it’s only for 30 days – you can always go back to your old habits if you really want to. At the end of the period, check in with yourself and see what you want to do.

Spend more time outdoors

Are you spending the majority of your days inside, either at work or at home, and possibly spending too much time in front of a computer screen? Fresh air and exercise can do wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing. Why not challenge yourself to get outside at least once every day? Whether you simply sit outside and fill your lungs with fresh air, go for a walk around the block or resolve to walk to work instead of taking the car, even small amounts of outside time will help you feel calmer and more centred.

Take a digital detox

From smartphones and tablets to social media, TV and computers, it’s easy to become used to the digital world. Make a conscious effort to reconnect with the real world by restricting your access to digital technology for 30 days. Try to use your smartphone for phone calls only, don’t watch TV and keep the computer switched off outside of work. You’ll be surprised at home much time is suddenly available for real life activities, hobbies, meeting friends and generally being more present in the moment.

Carry out acts of kindness

Making other people feel good is a sure fire way to put a smile on your face too. Spend 30 days doing a good deed every day, completing a random act of kindness or giving someone a compliment. If you’re not sure how to do this, take inspiration from the Pay It Forward Foundation or the Random Act of Kindness Foundation, both of which are dedicated to spreading kindness throughout the world to change people’s perceptions and experience and make the world a happier place.

Take more exercise

We should all take more exercise but often life (and lack of motivation) gets in the way. Setting yourself a specific, measurable goal for only 30 days may be the perfect way to break through the mental barrier and get moving. Whether you commit to 30 Days of Yoga, take the 30-day abs challenge, or simply add 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule, you will feel more energised and positive at the end of the month.

Declutter for 30 days

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated but feel unable to gain control, a 30-day-challenge may be just the thing you need. Resolve to get rid of one item every day – either sell it, give it away or throw it away. Start the process of freeing up space in your home and marvel at the difference a little bit of decluttering can make after only a month. You may feel so liberated that you decide to keep going!

Keep a gratitude journal

If you feel that your life is in a rut and nothing great ever happens, it’s a good idea to count your blessings. A genius way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. The idea is to think of at least one good thing that happened to you every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny thing (‘a nice sunny day’) or a big deal (‘got a pay rise’) – what’s important is to refocus your mind to see and appreciate all the good things that do invariably happen. Write it down in a journal and review all your positive experiences after 30 days.

Whatever you feel may need attention in your life, KlearMinds have a team of expert counsellors that have helped many people overcome a wide range of concerns, empowering them with the skills to maintain happier and more fulfilled lives. For a confidential chat or to book an appointment, please contact us.

Filled Under: Happiness

How to have a meaningful Christmas

Posted December 1st, 2017

Christmas Candles

What does Christmas mean to you? A huge Turkey Dinner followed by the Queen’s Speech? Lots of presents and an empty wallet? Partying through the season? While Christmas is a wonderful time of year, sometimes the real meaning can get lost in the frenzy of it all.

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate Christmas. Whether or not you celebrate Advent or go to Midnight Mass, it’s good for mind and soul to remind ourselves of the non-commercial aspects of the season and use the Christmas holiday as an annual break to recharge the batteries.

Practise kindness and generosity, charity and compassion and learn that giving from the heart can be the ultimate Christmas present to both the giver and receiver. Here are 7 ways to have a more meaningful Christmas.

1 – Give homemade gifts

Rather than spending big on presents just because it’s Christmas, why not get creative instead? Bake Christmas cookies, make your own Yule Log or cranberry sauce. How about a home made calendar with photos taken through the year? If you’re into needlework, handicrafts, creative writing, painting or music, use your talents to create personal gifts that have real meaning.

Homemade shortbread cookies

2 – Make time for the family

Christmas is a time for family, so make it a real priority to spend time together. Rather than putting the kids in front of the computer and the grandparents in front of the TV, go unplugged and do stuff together. Whether you play charades or board games, go for country walks or read stories to each other, the important thing is to appreciate everyone’s company and share the love.

3 – Talk about the meaning of Christmas

Why not have an open conversation with your family about what Christmas means to them? This will give every family member the opportunity to shape the festivities and create traditions that everyone will love. It might be going to Midnight Mass as a family, a favourite film you always watch together, the ritual of wrapping presents or making home made mince pies, the annual Pantomime outing – whatever makes you gel as a family.

4 – Have a ‘no presents’ policy

If your family is in agreement, why not use the money you would have spent on presents and make a donation to a good cause instead? You could go shopping for a local foodbank, give the money to a children’s charity or a homeless shelter to help those less fortunate than you. How about asking the children to choose one toy each that they would like to donate to a child who wouldn’t otherwise get any presents?

5 – Get out into the community

Christmas is a time for sharing, so why not share your time with friends and neighbours? Make your community a priority this Christmas and help out where you can. From going carol singing to inviting everyone back for Christmas drinks, from delivering home made cookies to your neighbours to distributing hot soup to the homeless, there are many ways you can connect with the local community.

Celebrating Christmas with the Family

6 – Share your good fortune

Look around your home – aren’t you blessed that you have so many things? Many people have less than you, for whatever reason, and simply cannot afford to celebrate Christmas. How about creating a stocking full of treats and gifts, or put together a food hamper, and place it on the doorstep of someone you know would really appreciate it? Or give your time freely to a community organisation to help with Christmas celebrations? Whether you help cook Christmas Dinner at your local church hall or look after abandoned pets, there’s always a way you can help.

7 – Setting good intentions

Rather than treating kindness and compassion as a seasonal activity, why not make plans to carry on through the next 12 months. Set out your intentions to do one good deed every day, and be grateful for one good thing that happens to you every day of the year. Studies have shown that consistent positive interactions and practising gratitude can increase happiness and decrease levels of depression.

Filled Under: Depression, Happiness

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