The festive season is a time in which many of us practice the Three R’s (Relaxation, Rejuvenation and Reflection). In addition to this, there is an important message to be had, which resides within the festive season spirit, and what it seeks to embody and impart upon us.
At the heart of the festive season spirit is the gift of giving (not receiving), whether material or immaterial. With this in mind, we thought we would take some time to build upon our animation, ‘Beliefs on money’, by focusing on one common money misconception, in particular, more money = more happiness.
A considerable amount of research has been directed towards examining the relationship between money and happiness, and answering the age-old question, “Can money buy happiness?” Importantly, what has been found is that after a certain financial position is reached (particularly once basic needs are met), more money does very little to increase your happiness, especially your lasting and meaningful happiness.
Interestingly, looking at the relationship between money and happiness from another angle, further research(#) has served to highlight that how you spend your money may be at least as important as how much money you earn, if not more so. Namely, spending money on others rather than on yourself, may be a more effective route to increasing happiness.
With this in mind, here are some ways to help you (and your children) embrace the spirit of the festive season. Importantly, they are not all about money, but each is based on the notion of giving, rather than receiving.
The Advent ‘kindness’ calendar
Many of us are probably familiar with the Advent calendar, a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. These days, most Advent calendars are pitched at children – for each day leading up to Christmas, a chocolate is enclosed within. Given this, consider opting for an Advent ‘kindness’ calendar instead. Swap the chocolates for activity cards. These activity cards can be based on acts of kindness, such as calling a loved one, putting a gift under a wishing tree, or donating (in cash or in kind) to a charity.
The gift of time
Whilst there will inevitably be gifts given and received of a material nature, when you are thinking about your gift list and what each person may like, don’t discount the happiness that can be elicited from the immaterial. The gift of time can be a welcome relief and greatly appreciated. This could be as simple as an ‘IOU 1 Hour’ with help babysitting, cooking/cleaning, shopping…or even mowing the lawn.
The festive cleanout
Unless you live a minimalist lifestyle, it’s probably safe to say that over the years you (and your children) have accumulated some possessions that were once loved, but are now collecting dust. With this in mind, consider going through your household possessions and single out anything that you no longer need or want. Whilst not only reducing clutter, donating these possessions, or selling them and donating the proceeds, to charity will help someone in need.
The five-gift rule
Receiving gifts can be an exciting part of the festive season for children. Importantly, take some time to consider the following: how your gifts will shape their perception and expectations around gift giving; and, whether your gifts will provide satisfaction over time (thus giving a greater return on your investment). With this in mind, consider the ‘five-gift’ rule. For example, five gifts, one for each of the following: something they need; something they want; something they can wear; something they can read; and, something they can donate.
The perspective shift
In a similar vein to above, turn the gift of receiving on its head. Set your children a budget and get them to choose something from a charity catalogue. For example, UNICEF Australia gives your children the opportunity to donate to other children that are in desperate need of supplies relating to clean water and nutrition, education and play, disease protection, and emergency relief.
Another option is to get your children involved in community initiatives. In Australia, 3.6 million people experience food insecurity every year, 27% of which are children. Foodbank, Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, provides 67 million meals a year to over 2,400 charities and 1,750 schools. Foodbank sources its food and groceries via donations from industry (farmers, retailers etc.) and the community.
The festive season is a time to practise the Three R’s, but it’s also a time to embrace the spirit of the festive season. By focusing on giving (not receiving), you may bring an increased level of happiness not only to your life, but also the lives of others. Importantly, this doesn’t have to be big gestures as even small ones can make a meaningful difference.
In addition, the abovementioned examples may also provide a chance for your children to practise their own perspective shifting. It may allow them to reflect on not only their life, but also the lives of those less fortunate. It can be a powerful growth opportunity and shape, in a positive way, their attitudes and behaviours towards the world (and those that live in it).
#Dunn, E.W., Aknin, L.B., and Norton, M.I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, pp.1687-88.