Enjoy People This Christmas: No Strings Attached

I’ve been thinking about how the Christmas gatherings we’ll participate in over the next two weeks seem to cause a lot of us more stress than joy, and it’s often because we don’t enjoy the people we’re planning to see. We get caught up in the expectations–what these events ought to be like, how the house should look, what another’s response should be to a gift or meal. Our heads aren’t dancing with sugarplums; they’re doing mental gymnastics–comparing all that is happening with an imagined ideal that’s probably different for everyone in the room.

I want to suggest keeping it simple this Christmas. Think generosity–“no strings attached.” Generosity is not trying to please everyone in the house or buying everyone the perfect gift. If we’re honest with each other, that heroic approach to hospitality and gift-buying has strings attached, doesn’t it?

Rather, think of it as spending the moment to offer something to the people around you.

Smile. Listen. Give real hugs.

Be willing to give help, and accept help. If you’re giving a gift or preparing a meal, resist measuring the reactions or counting the thank yous. Just give. Psychologists have identified some personal benefits from generosity, but this week, I’m not going to say anything about those benefits. Remember, no strings attached.

Photo by life is good (pete) via flickr

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