Give Happiness, Not Stuff

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The countdown to the holiday season is on and we are heading into a time when people who love shopping can lose control of their finances. Overspending on gifts for others and on ‘stuff’ for the house has its roots in psychology. It is often a reflection of a need to be wanted and loved, to belong, to compensate for low self-esteem or to be admired by others. While lavish spending can provide a solution for these desires, the effect is only temporary. Research shows that lasting satisfaction and happiness comes not from material goods but from experiences. A good life comes from doing things, not having things. This is particularly true at holiday time. Unlike material goods, holiday experiences become more valuable over time, giving us memories to treasure. If experiences are shared with others, then the memories are shared as well, creating a lasting bond between those involved. On the other hand, shopping is a solitary experience.

That’s not to say that shopping is bad. Shopping is a way to express what is unique about you, to define yourself, to be creative and to relax. It is an intimate experience that involves some complexity in terms of thinking about who you are and what makes you feel good as you choose from the many options of what to spend your money on. The key to successful shopping and gift-giving is to do it mindfully rather than frenetically. One thoughtfully chosen gift is worth much more than just its monetary value.

So instead of planning a Christmas surrounding in mounds of torn wrapping paper why not think of an enjoyable family experience? Another idea is to buy something for the family home that provides lasting pleasure or comfort for everyone. Plan not to finish your Christmas in the red!

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