Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Ridiculously Simple Holiday Gift Guide - $25 and up

Part 2: $25 and up - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Once again, most of us are struggling, in one fashion or another, to buy the perfect gift for a variety of people on our shopping list. As always, some people are harder to buy for than others. 

Cost: $25 and up. Effort: Practically zero. Impact: Huge. 

So, for the 2nd part of The Ridiculously Simple Holiday Gift Guide, my suggestion is Kiva. As I said in my first part, studies show that consumerism (buying stuff) doesn't really bring happiness. What does bring us happiness, however, is being grateful for what we already have, and selfless acts such as helping someone else. 

  If you've not heard about Kiva, it's a micro-lending organization that enriches entrepreneurs in third world countries. By securing micro-loans from individuals, it gives hard working people the means to start or grow their small businesses and become more successful and self-reliant. It also positively affects the quality of life for their families. 

This may be the perfect gift for the person who really has it all, or for the boss, client or colleague you're not comfortable buying a personal gift for, but would like to do something lovely or appropriate, just the same. Nothing says, "I've arrived", more nicely than doing something great in the name of someone else. 

Keeping it real on the flip side, nothing is more sly, smart or satisfying than circumventing a gift you feel obligated to give, than by giving the gift to someone else, in the name of your required recipient. Unsavory relative, client or co-worker? The Secret Santa nightmare? It's the perfect solution, and someone really deserving benefits, too. 

 Regardless of who, how or why you're gifting, in nearly every case where you and the recipient live an industrialized nation, you are light years ahead of the poverty and hardships that the Kiva recipients face, many of which live below one or two dollars a day. We all have so much living here in these advanced societies, sharing with someone who doesn't is very meaningful to everyone involved, and subsequently, may also increase your happiness quotient when you realize how much you truly do have. 

For any of the gifting scenarios, $25 in their name to a worthy recipient through Kiva, which is actually a LOAN that is repaid, is a wonderful way to give and make a real difference. When the loan is repaid, the recipient can choose to reinvest in another worthy entrepreneur, in a country of their choice. Or, they may take the dollars you originally gifted back into their own pocket and waste spend it on a round of Starbucks or something equally fleeting overpriced desirable. Karma is their choice. At least your gift can't be rebuffed or misconstrued, doesn't start out as a reindeer sweater that they're going return, or worse surreptitiously re-gifted. Problems upon problems solved! 

 But there's more. You also have a Kiva gift for waiting for me, and this one won't cost you a thing. Follow my invite to Kiva. Simply for registering to have a look around, a benevolent donor at Kiva will give me $25 to invest in a worthy person to enrich their lives - for free. When these donor loan are repaid, it stays within Kiva to help yet another person - which is perfect. I always pick women entrepreneurs and generally those who are working in healthy food enterprises. 

The site is inspiring, which will also increase your happiness & gratitude quotient. Now tell me, when was the last time a holiday gift guide gave you so much? 

Please join me in checking out Kiva and jot down three things you're grateful for today!

There are, of course, many worthy organizations that may better match those on your gift list. There are a multitude of world wide children's organization,  Animal foundations, such as one of my favorites, The Elephant Sanctuary or home to so many of us here, BreastHealthOnline. There are many, many more worthy places, including your own local civic organizations. All of which are in need of our help and would make inspiring choices for your gift recipients. 

I'd love to hear how micro-lending at Kiva or gifting through to any organization made a difference in your holiday giving and changed someone's life, including yours!

Here's wishing you a happier holiday and more prosperous New Year to everyone on your holiday list, and beyond. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Ridiculously Simple Holiday Gift Guide $0-$25

In light of Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday this holiday season, in a two part article, I'd like to give you two very different ideas for gifts that you might not have previously considered.

Part 1 of The Ridiculously Simple Holiday Gift Guide:

Cost: $0-$25. Effort: Minimal to simple. Impact: Huge. 

It's that time of year again. We're all scrambling, often times without enough dollars or daylight, to buy the perfect gift for the people we love, care about and respect. Most gifts are really an expression of how we feel about another person. With the gift representing and conveying our feelings for us, no wonder it's so hard to pick the right one!

 At the same time, we're also wishing people a happy New Year, while contemplating another year passing, and our own future. But what if you could stop wishing and actually bring about a happier New Year for yourself and others through your gift? 

If you only had between $0 and $25, what truly meaningful gift could you give to your loved ones that would make a measurable difference in their lives in the next year? If there was any way that even a zero dollar investment could change your lives, this first idea would be my number one pick. It also happens to be my gift for you:  A Gratitude Journal. Don't scoff, and keep reading - remember this is my gift to you, so at least take a minute to 'open it' and pretend to be overcome with joy. Who knows, it might actually work!  

What will you and yours receive from this ridiculously simple gift? Well, the benefits are literally priceless: With it, you can exponentially change the happiness quotient this coming year for yourself, and others. What would you give if you could be a whole lot happier? Exactly. Quite a lot. Except you can't buy happiness. Fortunately, it doesn't need to cost a thing, and it's actually quite simple. 

Studies show that consumerism (buying stuff) doesn't really bring happiness. One thing that really does bring us happiness, however, is being grateful for what we already have. If you lost everything and you only had the ability to breathe and blink, you'd start there. But, fortunately, most of us aren't anywhere near this dire of circumstances. 

By simply by writing down as few as three things you're grateful for each day, you can change your life and the lives of your loved ones by helping them on this truly simple path.

At ActionForHappiness.org, they recommend writing down three things you're grateful for each day. They state, "People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help people cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate. This action is easy to do yet its benefits have been scientifically proven. In tests, people who tried it each night for just one week were happier and less depressed one month, three months and six months later."

So, your task is to buy, make or otherwise create a Gratitude Journal. One for yourself and as many journal gifts as you plan to give. Traditional, hands-on journals can be simple or elaborate, large or small, store bought, or handmade, or they can easily be free. You can buy any notebook or a handmade Gratitude Journal off of Etsy from $3 and up. You can handcraft a little notebook out of scraps of paper, dedicate a sticky-note pad, or up-cycle an unused notebook yourself. You could even just create a little tutorial gift card to share the idea of a gratitude journal with someone. Then make a pact with yourself and your loved ones to follow through on your version of choice. 

On the net, via sites like Instagram, anyone can create a visual gratitude journal, with text and representative or random photos. You could post your gratitude as your Facebook status once a day. Using your Twitter account, or create a dedicated one to tweet to gratitude to your heart's content. There are also Gratitude Journal sites such as http://happyrambles.com. Apps abound; Sixteen of them exist for the iPhone alone, ranging from free to $1.99. You could even create a personal youtube tutorial on the idea and options involved and electronically share your gift with one or many. 

Whichever mode you choose, being regularly cognizant of what you're grateful for will change your life. 

There are also some fun things you can do with your journal. On a pen and paper book, you can use the left side of an entry page to write down what you're grateful for today, and then use the facing right hand side of the page to jot down what you want to be grateful for tomorrow. Example, on Monday night you could write on the right hand side, "I'm grateful for all the people who are kind to me on Tuesday".  Do it, and some really unusual things will start happening to you. 

I did a silly experiment with this. On my 'grateful for tomorrow page' I wrote down how grateful I was that everyone I encountered in my day was kind to me. It works best if you don't 'ask for stuff', ahem. It's wild, because every time I do it, it's like being on  Candid Camera. I think, seriously, this must be a joke. It's as if some friend of mine had read my journal from 2 am and set out to tell each random person I encounter the day ahead to be ridiculously nice to me, all of which is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. 

 It was so effective, however, that I just started laughing at one point after about 16 ridiculously positive interactions. In fact, it worked so well I found myself delayed due to in depth conversations from the kindest people imaginable. Be careful what you wish for! Truth is: it works. and clearly, if I can stand in the middle of a crowded store full of strangers and laugh, I'm already happier. DO IT. 

Some interesting things will start to happen, besides being happier. With the 'grateful for tomorrow page', you'll start to notice that what you wrote on your 'grateful for tomorrow' page will actually start appearing on your 'grateful for today' page. It effectively brings what you were looking for into your life. So, when I did this experiment, I ended up being grateful for all the people who were actually kind to me that day.  

 It's fun to play with it, and if you're playing with this, you've already brought some intrigue and joy into your own life by doing so. 

Here's to a beautiful season ahead and a happier New Year for you and your friends and family. I hope that you will put this gift to work for yourself and others in your life. 

I'd love to hear how your gratitude journal (either new from this post, or if you're already journaling) has changed your life.