At this time of year, the act of giving feels right. It comes from believing we have enough to share, no matter how much we have. It’s not about money or possessions, it’s about giving of ourselves without expecting something back. The upside, of course, is that giving can make us feel fabulous. This season is also about gratitude – being grateful for the gifts we receive, including the most powerful, life-giving ones of all: those from the universe that surrounds us.
In our noisy, media-filled world giving someone your full attention is a gift that shouldn’t be underestimated. To show we care, our loved ones notice when we put that phone down, look away from the screen and show that we are present in the moment. Disconnecting in order to really connect, in other words. There are so many ways to give: to others, to yourself. Time, energy, compassion and kindness are all gifts that mean so much when we give them to others. Being kind to ourselves is a gift worth giving, too – and it makes us want to share the resulting feelings of wellbeing with those around us.
The other side of this coin is, of course, gratitude. Gratitude – the art of being thankful, of showing appreciation – helps us acknowledge the good things in our lives rather than taking them for granted. ‘Gratitude happens when some kindness exceeds expectations,’ says columnist David Brooks. ‘Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness.’ Science agrees with this. New research in the US has found that people who demonstrate high levels of gratitude react more calmly to stress and show lower resting blood pressure; the blood samples of those tested showed fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease – this grateful group had higher levels of good cholesterol, lower levels of bad cholesterol – and lower levels of creatinine, indicating strong kidney function. Practicing selfless giving – and gratitude – are wonderful ways of bringing joy into the lives of others and ourselves. It doesn’t take much effort, but the benefits to both giver and receiver are immeasurable. The benefits of giving come back to us, too: giving makes us happy; it’s been scientifically proven to improve our physical and mental health; and it’s contagious.
When you meet someone, you can silently send them a blessing, wishing them happiness, joy, and laughter. This kind of silent giving is very powerful.-
The most generous giver of all, of course, is the universe. Without its numerous gifts, no living things would survive. Our addiction to and reliance upon constant technology means that for a lot of us our attention has drifted away from the natural world, but we will always rely on it for our most essential needs – water, food, shelter, nutrition, medicine…and more. These gifts help us maintain not just our physical health, but our emotional health, too. Think of the peace we feel when we see a beautiful sunset; the wonder at an incredible mountain range; the awe at a magnificent waterfall. In addition to these physical gifts, the natural world gives us less tangible, but equally important, gifts in terms of art, spirituality, and beauty. And yet if we take the planet for granted, if we don’t respect and nurture it, eventually these life-sustaining treasures will be destroyed forever. Mother Nature has been giving for four and a half billion years.
THE TRADITION OF GIVING
Christians see gift giving as a symbolic homage to the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus. But the ritual of gift giving at this time of year goes back to an even older tradition. Pagans in Europe and the Middle East presented each other with gifts at winter festivals, including Saturnalia, a wild Roman celebration held in December in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. During this week-long holiday in the cold, dark winter, pagans would lift their spirits by drinking to excess and giving each other gifts.
THE LAW OF GIVING AND RECEIVING
Deepak Chopra, physician, public speaker, writer, and guru to many – is a firm believer in the power of giving. ‘Make a decision to give wherever you go, to whomever you see,’ he says.
‘As long as you’re giving, you will be receiving. The more you give, the more confidence you will gain in the miraculous effects of this law. And as you receive more, your ability to give more will also increase.’ One of Deepak Chopra’s seven Spiritual Laws of Success is the Law of Giving and Receiving. This law says that the universe operates through dynamic exchange … that giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives. In other words, if it’s happiness you’re looking for, give happiness to others and it will come back to you.
THREE SIMPLE STEPS
He says that putting this Law of Giving and Receiving into effect requires us to take three steps:
1. Give something to everyone you come into contact with – something as simple as a compliment, a flower, or a prayer.
2. Gratefully receive all the gifts that life has to offer us – the gift of nature, a smile from a friend, a material thing.
3. Commit to circulating life’s most precious gifts: the gifts of caring, affection, appreciation and love. Say to yourself ‘Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy and laughter.’ (chopra.com)
This festive season let’s think about giving more to each other: more love, more attention, and especially, more thanks.