I’ve posted before about the “I can’t believe how fast this year is flying” syndrome, but it’s only early October, and have you noticed the major retailers are slowly slipping in a few Christmas items for sale?

I’ve been interviewed on a number of radio stations around the country recently about this very topic. For an example you can listen to me being interviewed by Kelly Higgins-Devine on 612 ABC Brisbane.

Over the next month the retail world and the marketing spin will start to hit fever pitch, and it’s got me wondering whether the pursuit of more can potentially not add anything to our overall sense of wellbeing and create less real happiness and potentially even ruin Christmas (well at least what’s meaningful about Christmas).

This week, as part of the allocated assignments for my Master Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, me and my fellow students are completing three tasks: (1) Do one random act of kindness every day, (2) Keep a humour journal of 3 funny things each day and (3) Create a gratitude collage adding one thing each day that we’re grateful for.

As I’ve been completing these activities, in the moment of recording, everything else gets pattern interrupted, and most if not all of the ‘tougher stuff’ and ‘noise’ that is going on in my life, gets put into perspective about what’s really meaningful.

Coming back to this progression toward Christmas time, it’s also timely I think to take an intentional moment to stop, and find ways to pattern interrupt the noise in our lives and instead of just thinking about what you’re going to buy for your loved ones this year, flip it for a moment and think about what you’re grateful for and what you’re personal meaning of what Christmas and the festive season is all about.

I’m wondering if the Time-For-Giving has been hijacked by the Time-For-Buying and whether for many, the pursuit of more is potentially ruining Christmas and the festive season. The research is pretty clear that having more ‘things’ in our lives does not necessarily positively impact our overall sense of wellbeing, and yet that somehow becomes the focus… what ‘things’ will we buy and give as gifts at Christmas time?

Here are five tips to ensure this festive season adds to your overall sense of wellbeing and happiness:

1. Keep things positive – while for some thinking positively and warmly about others comes naturally, for others, the lead up to the festive season can almost create the right kind of ‘excuse’ to get into the spirit of Christmas… wishing peace and goodwill to all.

2. Get intentional about the gifts you give – the very act of needing to think about what gifts we will give to our friends and family members gets us engaged in reflecting on what we hope the gift of giving will say to those we give to about us.

3. Value the blessings of family – the festive season is an opportunity for us to gather in what for many are the most important relationships in our lives… our family, and to strive to see beyond the faults of others and to genuinely try to get along despite our differences.

4. Discover your personal ‘meaning’– for many the festive season is about spirituality, religion and celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of God. It gives occasion to look beyond ourselves. For others, meaning is found outside of the religious beliefs, and the ‘spirit’ of goodwill and peace to all becomes the focus, or it could be the bigger meaning is a great opportunity for a party.

5. Celebrate the personal successes – while a sense of achievement might seem like it has nothing to do with Christmas, for the many cooks who battle the heat of summer to prepare and serve a traditional (winter) feast, there is a huge sense of achievement when it’s all consumed and the afternoon rest time provides that well-earned moment of personal congratulations.

I know it’s only early October, but as we approach this festive season, take a moment to reflect on what you’re grateful for, not just the material things that you possess in your life, but on the relationships and the experiences you’ve shared with others throughout your life, and how Christmas is a time to show your gratitude not just for what you possess, but for all that you gain from the relationships you have.