Focusing on Experiences this Holiday Season

woman holding sparkler in snow

How can we focus less on “stuff” and more on living this holiday season?

Even those of us who love shopping can find this time of year exhausting. We want to focus on family, friends, and relationships. But we also feel ourselves pressured by the stress of finding just the right gift for the people in our lives. How can we avoid losing sight of the truly important things during this special time of year?

They say that people find more happiness in experiences than they do in possessions. Not only do our experiences build memories, they’re also harder to compare or measure in dollar amounts. By focusing on experiences this holiday season, we can live more deeply and avoid an absorption in items which bring little fulfillment and often just take up space. Here are some ideas about where to start.

Spend time together.

Quality time with friends and loved ones can be not only an incredibly thoughtful gift, but also an affordable one. Time is a precious gift, and dedicating part of your busy schedule toward participating in a specific event with someone shows how much you value that relationship. Think about taking your parents out to dinner for a change, or taking a young one for an ice skating adventure at one of Ann Arbor’s local arenas. You’ll build memories and provide an opportunity for fulfilling conversation.

Encourage self-care.

Self-care is critical for both yourself and others, especially during a time of year which is meant for peace but usually feels like anything but. Whether that means booking time for yourself at a spa, offering to cover some of the holiday baking so your mom can take a rest by the fire, or babysitting your best friend’s children while they go on a date with their spouse, you can find ways to bring peace to yourself and those around you.

Think altruistically.

Sometimes it’s not your own experiences which you need to think about, but those of others. Christmas and New Year’s can be some of the most difficult times of year for many people. It can be a time of great loneliness for anyone who is unable to travel home or who does not have family of their own. It can be a time of grieving for those who have lost loved ones and are acutely aware of their absence during this time of year. And it can be a time of suffering for those without food, clothing, or shelter.

Consider reaching out to anyone you might know who could feel alone this time of year. Invite them to join your own family celebration, or schedule special time to celebrate together. If you know of someone who has experienced a loss in the past year or two, reach out to let them know their grief has not been forgotten. And consider donating or volunteering at local shelters or pantries.

Build experiences that last.

Gifts aren’t all bad. Sometimes you can find a truly special item which you know your friend will treasure for years. Or maybe it fills a practical need in their life, or fuels a passion such as art or reading. But it’s hard to find these gifts year after year, and too often we find ourselves burdened by possessions that add lots of clutter and little meaning to our lives.

Experiences create a foundation for a relationship to grow, and they’ll stay with us for years to come. So however you celebrate this year, pay attention to how you spend your time. Focus on living it well, and in increasing the enjoyment of those around you.

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.