First, I realized that a lot of the anxiety and depression we suffer is rooted in being too self-focused. People complain about people becoming increasingly selfish, and I don't think there's any doubt that the smiles and happy spirit you hear of in the old Christmas songs and movies are indeed a thing of the past. The world has gotten bigger and more complex - and frankly, there are just more people around than there used to be. All of this means that it's harder to keep your own life together, which means that altruism and branching out are relegated even further back. I don't say this as a "shame on you," but rather as a statement of fact, and that I understand why it's happening. Life is different in the twenty first century, and we're struggling to find a balance. Does that make us bad, selfish people? Absolutely not. It just means that too often, we see the charities out there ringing bells and soliciting us as one more thing competing for our attention in a loud world, and we're learning how to tune it out. Unfortunately, that means that we're withdrawing further into ourselves, which leads to anxiety, frustration over how to hold on to what we've got, and depression over what we don't have or can't control. Never mind making it better, which is another challenge altogether. For too many of us, today is enough.
The good news is that this isn't hard to overcome. My second revelation on this issue was that in a loud, complex world, that means that small things have the potential to make a bigger difference. For example, if your days are typically busy, then taking a few minutes to write a note or a card to a friend who posted on social media that they're feeling low will mean a lot to them. Not only can the sentiment and your words be a blessing and an inspiration, but they'll appreciate that you took time out of your schedule to act on your concern for them. Not only that, but the simple act of taking that time out can shift your perspective off your "to do" list and onto more important things, like taking a moment to strengthen a relationship.
In reality, it doesn't take much, and it shouldn't be limited to the holidays. Sure, it's ok to still donate to charity, and I encourage you to do so if you feel so compelled. But don't stop there. Look for little ways you can help others, from handing over your buggy at the grocery store, to cleaning out the coffee pot in the office, to turning in a misplaced phone while Christmas shopping, to inviting somebody you usually don't include in your Sunday after-church lunch group, to making a few extra cookies for friends next weekend (more on that next week).
Generosity really isn't hard, because small things can make a big difference. The challenge is to remember that in day to day life because in the end, we help ourselves the most when we take a minute to help others.
That's all today. Take care, and have a great weekend.