7 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Presence Not Presents ...

Whether you choose to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even Festivus, this is the holiday season that unites us all at our very core in a celebration of joy and peace. Yet, ironically, it can also be the most stressful and hectic time of year for many of us. With so much focus allotted toward picking out and buying the perfect presents, and receiving the perfect presents, we lose focus on being present. A little skewed, don't you think? Read on to refocus!

1. Really Be There

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If you're going to be there, you should actually, fully "be there". What I mean is, when you decide to spend time with loved ones, really enforce that decision you made by actively participating in the moment. The special people in your life deserve your complete and undivided attention. Avoid the urge to multitask and just concentrate on the here and now. Be there. Be aware.

2. Choose to Be Positive

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Have you ever noticed that when you're happy, everyone else around you seems to be happier too? Things go your way, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, unicorns are galloping... or you know, something like that! Then there's the opposite. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, reminiscent of Scrooge with PMS, (yes, I know Scrooge is a man), then everything just seems to go wrong. What you project is reflected back at you. The great thing is, you have a choice. You can actually decide to wake up and be excited about who you'll see and what you'll do. The choice of happiness will determine the likelihood of you wanting to be present by avoiding distractions.

3. Listen

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To quote the great Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, "When a problem comes along, you must zip it! Zip it good!" If you're too busy talking all the time, or thinking about what you're going to say next when someone else is talking, then you're not really there, you're in your head. Being present means listening to someone else's narrative for a while and showing genuine interest. Try really listening to your Grandmother tell a story about her favourite Christmas, or to your dad talk about how when he was young he had to walk 10 miles to school, in snow up to his eyes, wearing no shoes, pushing a wheelbarrow - chances are you'll learn something you'll never forget.

4. Touch

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I remember when reaching out to someone usually involved a hand touching a person. Now it involves a hand touching a keyboard. Commenting, "liking" and the lazy person's version of "hello" i.e. "poking" (*shudder*), have replaced physical gestures of communication. But being touched and touching are fundamental to human interaction. Human beings need touch to survive - literally! You know that saying, "actions speak louder than words"? It takes three words to say "I love you", and one hug to say the same thing. A hug is a gift you can give that you'll get right back, and smiles are contagious. It may sound sappy - okay, it's mushier than mashed potatoes - but it's true! It's time to start giving and receiving those gifts.

5. Express Yourself

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Express your feelings and emotions to those around you by gathering together and sharing traditions, stories, meals and laughter. These are the moments that you will reflect on for years to come, long after any new sweater or video game has been grown out of. It's times of togetherness that will stay with you, always.

6. Unplug

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There's a connection that's bigger and more important in your life than wifi. It's the invaluable connection that you share with people, animals, nature and within your very self. To truly connect, you must, I repeat MUST disconnect from all electronic devices. And I mean 100%. No fake out disconnections while sneakily checking your texts and Facebook on the sly, are allowed! Oh, don't act like you don't do it, I'm guilty of the same thing! Put down your phone and back away - unless you're in the middle of a Skype or FaceTime call, because that would be awkward! - but after that, no excuses! Use the holiday time of rest to give technology a rest. It's essential to have down time to just do nothing with other people. Even the most efficient high-tech gadgets need to recharge their batteries. You do too. Your computer, iPod, video games, television and phone will still be there tomorrow, but the moments you share with your family and friends will not. If you don't look up now, one day you'll look around and wonder where the time went, and no amount of modern technology can ever get that back.

7. Give to Your Community

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Being present in your community is just as important as being present in the lives of those closest to you. There's no greater feeling than feeling that you've made even a small, positive difference in someone's life. Find second homes for material possessions that you no longer use or need, dedicate some time to helping someone, or at the very least, commit a small act of kindness. It's crucial that we all take care of each other.

I don't know about you, but when I look back on my favourite past holiday memories, it's not the tangible gifts that I remember, it's the gifts of attention, availability, closeness, time, and the feeling of being happy and loved, that have remained with me, ever present in my heart. Presents, just like the present, are fleeting, but the gift of presence, well that remains forever. Isn't that what this time of year is all about? Isn't that what love is all about? Happy Holidays!

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