Positively Present's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

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After encountering hours of Black Friday commercials (love you, Hallmark Channel, but I could do without the incessant selling!) and watching a video entitled "How Likely Are You to Die in a Black Friday Sale?," it's pretty hard for me to deny that the holiday shopping season is upon us.

I've always been a huge fan of gift-giving, but, the older I get, the less impressed I am by the ever-growing fervor of holiday shopping. It's a wonderful feeling to find a perfect gift for someone you care about, but so much of this gift-giving feels forced, feels like it's becoming less of a want to and more of a have to

It could just be my age (after all, this is my 35th Christmas) or maybe I'm just changing what matters most to me, but gift-giving feels different now than it once did. For this reason, I decided to make a holiday gift guide of my own. No sales. No special deals. Just gifts that you can give anytime, and to almost anyone. 

 

for the friend who feels uncertain right now : encouragement

for any single person you encounter today : love

for the incredibly frustrating family member : compassion

for the boss or colleagues or who count on you : energy

for the parent or sibling who's done you wrong : forgiveness

for the friend or partner who remains faithful : trust

for the stranger filled with road rage or hostility : empathy

for the child who wants to show you what s/he can: attentiveness

for the partner who is always there by your side : intimacy

for the person who's beliefs seem almost insane : tolerance

for the introvert (or teen) who would love alone time : privacy

for the coworker who goes above and beyond : recognition

for the best friend who's had a really tough year : comfort

for yourself, because you deserve this, always : self-love

for the one you haven't spoken to in far too long : honesty

for the go-getter who appears to be a bit stuck : inspiration

for the person who asks you what you really think : advice

for the passing stranger in the hallway or on the street : connection

for the loved one who gives his or her heart to you : passion

for those who are so different from you in so many ways : acceptance

for the ones you want to cling too tightly to : independence

for those you've kept at a distance for no valid reason : affection

for the children who want to feel like they're all grown up : responsibility

for the person who cuts you off in line or on the road : kindness

for the pal who isn't yet sure which path s/he should take : reassurance

for the child (or pet. or adult.) that makes you feel crazy sometimes : patience

for the person who always finds a way to make time for you : time

for the one you've worked with who's looking for a new opportunity : endorsement

for the partner you may have been neglecting a little bit lately : romance

for the person (or Virgo) who's always, always on time : punctuality

for the friend you always do the exact same thing with every time : adventure

for the person who is rushing or speeding or in your way : consideration

for the ones who are heartbroken or hurting or all alone : tenderness

for the loved one who has never, ever stopped lifting you up : support

for the fellow human beings, who are just doing the best they can : vulnerability

 

Of course, most of of us (including me!) will still buy physical gifts for those we love, and there's certainly nothing wrong with gift-giving. (In fact, I wouldn't be at all mad if you wanted to gift someone a copy of The Positively Present Guide to Life or the Every Day Matters 2018 Diary or Gratitude or Compassion or Living in the Moment or Forgiveness...) But I hope this post has inspired you to think outside the box when it comes to gift-giving, to remember the wise words from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: "Maybe," the Grinch thought, "Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."  


4 Ways to Embrace the Freedom of Letting Go

 

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This week, I made this illustration for the "Freedom" prompt of the 2017 Gratitude Challenge, and it really got me thinking about how freeing the act of letting go really is. But it's also really difficult to do — at least for me it is. I'm pretty picky so when I let a person / thing / experience / idea / behavior into my life, I find it challenging to let it go (even when I know for sure it's no good for me). But, as I say often, it's often the most challenging things that are the ones worth doing. 

Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves? Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what's no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish. 

Releasing our own dead leaves isn't always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn't mean we can't do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it's up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go. Here are some of the best ways to get started: 
 

  • Determine what you value most. When you take a step back and think about you truly value in your life, you'll realize that much of you're holding on to isn't as essential as you might've thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you're not experiencing true freedom. You're restricted by beliefs that aren't allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.

  • Reflect on what you're really receiving. We often hang on to things or people because we believe they're add value to our lives, that we're receiving some benefit from them (or providing it to them). But is that actually a fact? Are you actually benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life, or do you just tell yourself you are because it's easier than choosing change? Reflecting on whether or not a person / experience / etc. is making your life richer can provide you with a boost of motivation to let someone or something go. Of course, not everything in life is about what you get from it, but if something is taking more than it's giving, it might not be worth clinging to.  

  • Take note of what you're overvaluing. Are you placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily? Are you giving something way more value than it truly has? More often than not, we idealize people or things and tell ourselves that, for whatever reason, we need it/him/her. Needing something is kind of prison; it keeps you trapped in situations that aren't necessarily beneficial for you. If there's a voice inside you saying "let go," it's a pretty good sign that you should let go. What you truly need in your life is never going to be accompanied by a voice that urges you to let go. Listen to that voice — not the one that overvalues what's no good for you as a way to keep you feeling the false comfort of not experiencing freedom. 

  • Be strong enough to release your grasp. It really does come down to two little words: let go. No matter how hard it feels, no matter what obstacles appear to stand in your way, if you want to experience true freedom, you have to be brave and release your grip. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, taking action really is the only way to access freedom and make room for new growth. You owe it to yourself to be brave and release what you no longer need. And keep this in mind: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're fine without those dead leaves clinging to your branches. 
     

As you're learning to let go, also keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's a voice telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. You won't hear that voice when you're doing what's right for you, when you're with people who bring you up, when you're connecting with the very best parts of yourself. It's hard to listen to the voice telling you to do the hard thing, but not listening often makes it harder — you'll either remained imprisoned by what you're clinging to, or you'll drag out the letting go process, making it even more challenging when you finally release that grip. 

Let the trees inspire you, and look to them way they let the dead leaves drop motivate you to release what you no longer need. When you let go, you might go through a tough time — a bare-branched winter, like the trees — but that pain will pass, and you'll have made room for the bright, lively leaves of spring when they arrive (and they will!). 

 

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