Hello Mindful Friends!
In this blog our Marketing Manager, Amy shares her thoughts on gifting.
This week in the Mindful Bites office the inevitable beginning of December Xmas chat started.
The usual stuff…
Am I really going to get my dad socks again?
How much more plastic can my kids own?
If I don’t get my teenage cousin the latest top/bag/makeup (delete as appropriate) will she hate me for the whole of 2019?
The FOMO is real when you’re 15.
It was then that I decided to take a step back, meditate on what was really going on here.
If we’re honest, what are we really asking with those questions?
It occurred to me that we are in danger of speeding through the gifting process in order to simply ‘get it done.’ We rush around the high street, aimlessly looking for something shiny to take our fancy. Our brains are cluttered with the latest gadgets, the ‘must have’ gifts and the need to always have the best, the coolest, the newest things.
But does that make us happy?
Think back to last Xmas.
Can you really remember exactly what Great Aunt Sophie bought you?
Can you actually remember anything you received?
We have become a society of consumers. We buy and buy almost regardless of whom we’re giving to and whether they actually want or need what we’re giving them. We wrap everything as quickly as possible so that we can tick ‘xmas shopping’ off our list in our crazily busy 21st century lives.
And this is before we even throw in the cost of all this on our planet! The wastage, the packaging, the wrapping, the fast fashion:
I came home from work that day and looked at the list I had started for my kid’s presents.
In our home we celebrate Chanukah. In terms of gifting its totally on a par with Xmas, my kids receive a present each for 8 nights and that’s before the well meaning grandparents, aunties and cousins pile on more. I suddenly realised I was without doubt nurturing this mass consumerism in them. The guilt of not gifting them the latest thing, not having huge brightly coloured boxes for them to unwrap was impossible to even comprehend.
How had this happened to me?
I work for a company that lives and breathes Mindfulness. I am authentic and passionate about revolutionizing behaviour. I spend my day promoting a way of eating (and being) that incorporates thought, nourishment and goodness in every bite but when it comes to gifting my children I am doing the opposite!
I am mindlessly consuming, showering them in plastic they don’t need and that is harmful to the planet.
I really wanted to do something to change this. To make my family’s celebration contribute to a possible solution rather than feeding the problem.
So what is the answer?
I couldn’t bare the disappointment on their little faces… or could I?
Before you call social services, no I didn’t decide to ban presents this year! Depriving them of gifts isn’t the answer.
I needed a lesson, something different. A mindful pause for them and me to think about what and why we gift.
Once a month at the end of our road, a group of volunteers run a drop in afternoon for Asylum Seekers. Through donations from people in the local area, they provide food, clothes and toys for families who otherwise would not have these basic amenities. Things my children most definitely take for granted.
This month coincided with the first night of Chanukah and I decided this was the perfect opportunity for our family to do something to help.
In other words, the perfect opportunity for me to carry out my experiment.
Instead of them receiving a gift for just one night, they bought, wrapped and donated one.
Would they hate me? When we lit the Chanukah candles that evening and there was no present for them, would I have 3 tantrums on my hands? I was scared, could I bare it if they were disappointed?
The truth is they were fine. Yes, my 5 year old asked 4 times throughout the evening if I had been joking and was he really getting a present but they accepted what we were doing. They had seen first hand the journey their donation had taken and they felt good about it.
The joy of giving took over; they began to understand what matters most. I had feared that they would feel neglected but the truth was they felt fulfilled, they knew that they had done something good.
Don’t get me wrong, if they don’t get a present on all the remaining 7 nights I’ll have hell to pay – but my guess (hope!) is that this is one gift they will definitely remember.
This all got me wondering. Why had I been so worried?
Was it my guilt as a working mum that convinced me that presents are everything?
Am I compensating for having one eye scrolling through Instagram whilst my 2 year old is showing me his 12th glitter picture of the week?
Do I shower them with gifts to make myself feel better for not being at every school pick up, every dance show/football game/concert or because it genuinely is best for them?
The truth, I suspect is YES. I need to rethink gifting in general. Looking back now I’m pretty sure one of the reasons they happily accepted giving one of their gifts was because of the experience. It involved an activity with me. It required us to spend time together as a family fully immersed in the task at hand.
Fully present to the moment.
Experiment over and its time to reflect on what I’ve learnt:
Gifts don’t have to be things. Time, outings, food and experiences create memories. Memories mean more than even the coolest gadgets out there. Memories last forever. (Way better value for money!!)
Trying something different doesn’t have to be scary! Stepping outside of the norm, being authentic to your beliefs will pay off.
I will always feel guilt – it’s a fact of life but compensating with ‘stuff’ won’t fill any gap, it will only harm us and our planet.
So, my Mindful Friends, try your own experiment this Xmas/Chanukah/Festive Season. Do something different, just a small step. Take the time to think about why you give what you give and who is really benefiting from it. Know that by being honest and authentic your friends and family will be even more grateful for a present that was sincere, useful and does some good for our planet.
Happy Chanukah, Merry Xmas and Seasons greetings for all of us to you!