CaptureThe holiday season often brings out the best in people. It’s a time when we display more compassion and generosity to giving and caring for the less fortunate. However, it can also be a time that causes the most stress as we seek to find the “perfect” gift from our list of family members, the “secret Santa” holiday company event, best friends,  organizations, club membership acquaintances, mail carrier… the family pet…the list goes on! Not to mention getting all the decorations up, all the baking done, attending holiday functions, etc…So then, how do you balance it all-retaining your sanity and happiness during this “wonderful time of the year?” Here are five steps to having a Good (virtuous) holiday season:

Give – Giving is often attached to a monetary value; however, giving can occur in so many different ways. Some examples would include contacting your local shelters and donating items of clothing, bedding or items in your home that are still of great value – tucked away neatly in your space-saver bag. Get your children involved as well; make holiday cards and speak with administrators of your local Children’s hospital to visit and leave a card for a child whose family had intentions on being home during the holiday season but may find themselves in a hospital room. Giving also creates an opportunity to help children truly understand and appreciate blessings, hard work, dedication and commitment parents make to ensure they (the children) have a better life than what the parent has experienced. By giving to others, you gain a return as well. It produces a feeling of happiness and a sense of accomplishment (that you were able to make a difference) no matter how great or small, in someone else’s life. Have you ever seen two toddlers, strangers to each other – just so happen to be in the same place, sharing each other’s snacks? There’s sense of accomplishment eluding from the smile across their faces. Give to others and “it” will be given to you!

Grin – In the midst of every situation, find a reason to smile or laugh. Even when that person pretends to not see you in line at Wal-Mart during the Black Friday deals. Studies have shown that smiling can create feelings of happiness, helps to reduce stress and is one of the simple pleasures of life. Think of how much an infant smiles. When you to take your little bundle of joy to its 3 month wellness check and shots have been ordered by the pediatrician, it is one the most hurtful thing to witness. But once the appointment has ended, the infant sees your familiar face, words of comfort, and warm embrace. She’s then able to communicate to you, through her smile, that she appreciates your security. Remember, Black Friday is one day. A genuine smile can create a memory for a lifetime…so SMILE and show those pretty white teeth!

Be Grateful – Well, you didn’t get that last 50” flat screen TV on sale at Best Buy for $399…and you stood in line with a ticket with YOUR number. The new Ipad Air advertised for $99…is all but gone. “Hugging Elmo” has given his final farewell to the holiday season prices or you simply just can’t give the specific gifts that have been requested. Give the gift of love. Seems cliché but it still works. By giving to others (as discussed above), a since of gratitude and feeling of appreciating is obtained, realizing that your situation could be just a little worse. How can you be grateful in these times? Your family all returned from various destinations to a place you all call home, you returned to a home still standing firm on the foundation it was laid, you have a job to pay for necessities, and you have the ability to utilize your senses to see the sun set, moon rise and change of season. These are the benefits of life that are often overlooked with an ungrateful heart. By being grateful for where you are, you can create a picture of serenity, appreciation and joy to someone who is unable to utilize all of their senses but is grateful to be with loved ones during this holiday season.

Be Gentle – So many variables can lead to an erupting volcano of emotions…someone cut you off on the road – just too close for comfort, Thanksgiving dinner with extended family turned into a disappointment because a family heirloom was destroyed, you just don’t feel like dealing with the crowds this year. Remember someone else is having a bad day as well. Consider what you will say before you say it. A soft-kind answer turns away anger but harsh and angry words can sometimes create violent conflict. You don’t want to be the next Channel 6 breaking news story- being caught on tape in an altercation in front of Toys R’ Us. Somehow fame on that level doesn’t seem appealing.

Set a Goal –Credit card companies and loan offices have a giving heart during this time of year as well. Unfortunately, it’s accompanied with INTEREST. Set goals and remain in your budget. You’ll be able to enjoy the New Year toast more peacefully and less disgruntled, thinking about paying off the bills just created. If your heart is still a little heavy about just not being able to get those specific gifts – here’s a thought. Open a Christmas account at your current financial institution or do a little research to see what institution provides the best offer. Place $5, $10 or $20 weekly or bi-weekly (based on your budget), starting this season, so next season you can cross off your list and check it twice. You’d be surprised how quickly your deposits (with interest) add up in a year’s time.

It is the most wonderful time of the year, right? Yes…it can be and keeping these key points in mind will lead to a wonderful start to the year ahead.

Kimberly R. Lock is the author of Who You Callin’ Silly? How a Silly Woman Becomes Virtuous. She assists her husband in the business aspects of running Unity Gospel House of Prayer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You are invited to join the author and other once silly, now virtuous women at