Dear Dr. Smith,
We are right in the middle of the Christmas season and I don't feel the least bit Christmas-y. I have no holiday spirit and haven't bought a single gift. (I usually get my shopping done before Thanksgiving.)
This is not like me. Is there anything I can do to get the Christmas spirit?
(Feeling like) Mrs. Scrooge
Dear Mrs. Scrooge,
For Christmas my freshman year of college I played Santa Claus. This was my first opportunity to be in a position of giving and boy did I go big with it.
My friends and family received lots of wonderful gifts that year. Now, I did not have the money to pay for this treasure trove of items, but I did have access to these wonderfully marketed credit cards that gave me a free bottle holder just for signing up.
It did not take much convincing for me to sign on the dotted line and begin to give away presents like Oprah Winfrey gives away cars.
I made it my business to ensure that everyone received a wonderful gift from me and did not think about how I would ultimately pay this money back. You see, I had no understanding of exactly what I was doing with these credit cards. I just knew that I had what seemed to me unlimited potential to use this card to get the things that I wanted.
It took me many years to pay this debt off, and ultimately I'm sure that I paid at least 5 times what those items were worth. This ultimately ended up causing me a great deal of stress and ruined my credit before I even understood the significance of credit.
Over time I came to have more of an appreciation for money and began to learn how the power of money could be utilized to strengthen my position in life. I came to this understanding in a variety of ways: reading, listening to money management experts and interacting with financial planners.
Eventually I paid off my debt and began to work on restoring my financial profile. As I continued to learn more about the system of money management, I also begin to question why I felt the need to have to buy all of these overpriced things to begin with.
Of course this was not the meaning of Christmas, but here I was following through and engaging in this practice that caused me a lot of turmoil. I embarked on a journey to answer these questions and restore my sanity as well, vowing to not put myself back in a position where my wants dictated my money decisions as opposed to my needs.
So now I use the lesson of my earlier misfortunes as an opportunity to help others think about choices they might make regarding similar issues. It is important for people to consider what type of impact putting themselves in debt will have on their happiness long term. Sure there might be a temporary high, but the long term effect might drastically outweigh this. It is important for a person to consider what this will do to their mental health if they have to worry and stress about how they are going to pay back these bills with money they do not have.
If we can spend more time really appreciating the true meaning of Christmas in showing love and gratitude to those who are in our lives, that will be more important than a sweatshirt that will lose its value in a matter of months.
If you do not have the financial means to show your love by all means engage in a process of acts of service. Doing things in this manner will also increase your sense of purpose, which should charge your spirit and bring you joy. When we can selflessly do things for others, it moves something in our own spirit. This allows happiness to be activated and will then jump start getting into the holiday spirit.
Lastly, finding a way to stay in a space of gratitude can be quite uplifting. I often encourage people to start a daily gratitude journal or to write on an oversized sticky to start their morning something that they are grateful for. When we turn our focus to gratitude and appreciation, it becomes hard to stay in a dreary place.
If that does not work try watching the scene from A Christmas Story where the kid licks the pole on a dare and has his tongue stuck to the pole. Gets me every time.
Dr. Anthony J. Smith, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Executive Director of Alase Center For Enrichment. We are delighted to have him writing a column for the The Saunders Report and answering readers' questions concerning important issues in their lives.
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