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Celebrate the Best Free Gifts in the New Year

Dec. 31, 2012
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By the time New Year’s arrives there may be a sense of consumer overload with money spent and credit cards maxed from Christmas gifts. Some of the best choices for starting the New Year might be the ones that are free or often overlooked. Below are ten free things you can do starting at any time and they might actually create lasting benefits.

1. Put Your Health First

Commit to drinking less, or not drinking at all on New Year’s Eve because this holiday is associated with a very large surge in car accidents and deaths. It makes no sense to start the new year in a mentally incapacitated state and then endanger your own life and the lives of others trying to drive when intoxicated. Binge drinking also also can cause death.

Commit to not overeating also. For some reason, binge eating is a common activity during the holidays – perhaps due to stress. However, starting the new year by overeating and consuming unhealthy food is only likely to make yourself sick and even upset. The idea of an unbridled hedonistic glut seems to have some people believing they are obligated to damage their own health in order to have fun. Visits to the ER and heart attacks also increase during the holidays.

2. Practice Gratitude

The daily logging of things you are grateful for has been linked to an increase in happiness by research studies. This simply activity is free and easily accomplished in five minutes a day or less.

3. Give Some Things Away

Minimalism is the practice of keeping one’s life simple, meaning ridding oneself of anything that isn’t necessary. One could hold a giving party and gather all things you no longer need or never needed in the first place. Then take these things to the Goodwill or sell them and save the money for a time when it will be most helpful. If you have extra blankets, take them to homeless people in the area.

4. Track Your Happiness

The Happiness Tracker is a free app that can be used on a smart phone or via a Web browser. It is used for documenting one’s happiness as it relates to specific activities such as work, eating, and socializing. Number of hours slept and quality of sleep can also be tracked using the daily surveys that are sent out automatically each day. Each survey is just six to eight questions and requires only several minutes to complete. The answers are used to fill in various graphs within an overall Happiness Report. We may have a tendency to focus on problems or what is ‘wrong’ but this free service puts it back on happiness. New Year’s celebrations are typically about saying good-bye to the last twelve months and looking forward to the next, so trying the Happiness Tracker might be helpful. Of course, it is also something that can be shared with others and they may start using it too. If that is the case then you can discuss if it is working and what benefits you appreciate and social interaction is generally associated with happiness. Considering the popularity of smart phones, friends and family members may appreciate learning about this free app and using it.

5. Practice Self-Compassion

Being compassionate towards your self might sound odd to some, but it isn’t selffish. It is self-caring. Typically, we may think of compassion as being something we can be for others, but we can practice it towards ourselves as well, and when we do it we may be come more compassionate to others. The practice of self-compassion can be a good antidote to the harshness of the Inner Critic. Dr. Kristin Neff from the Univerisity of Texas at Austin wrote a book about self-compassion and is the first American researcher to investigate it scientifically.

6. Practice Forgiveness

Though forgiveness is something which is typically challenging to generate, especially when there is a strong sense of having been wronged, practicing it can be much better for our health. (Holding on to grudges is generally unhealthy and even linked to stress and heart disease.)

7. Cultivate Positive Emotions

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has been researching positive emotions for decades.  In an interview said, “When people increase their daily diets of positive emotions, they  find more meaning and purpose in life. They also find that they receive more social support–or perhaps  they just notice it more, because they’re more attuned to the give-and-take between people.  They report fewer aches and pains, headaches, and other physical symptoms. They show mindful  awareness of the present moment and increased positive relations with others.  They feel more effective at what they do.” (Source: Leading Company)

Happy people tend to have more positive emotions in a ratio of about three to one, and people are thriving can experience them in a ratio of six to one. Serenity, joy and gratitude are just three of the positive emotions that are associated with a life outlook that is productive and socially interactive.

8. Quality People

Only spend time with the people you most care about on this holiday – not the people you will quickly forget about.

9. Start Meditating

Meditation has been shown by research to reduce stress and maintain a calm outlook.

Also, it teaches us that we don’t have to believe in our thoughts, which may become negative at times. Meditating is free and there are many websites such as Tiny Buddha and videos on YouTube that explain it for no cost.

10. Quality Time

Another free and healthy thing you can do to celebrate New Year’s Eve is to gather with people you care about and share the experience using a format wherever has the chance to talk about something they believe is important. In other words, you could offer the chance to everyone you are with the chance to hold a designated object, such as a stone, and speak for one or two minutes about the last year. The stories people share may help create a sense of connectedness and make the occasion more memorable than simply getting drunk and dancing.

Bonus – Make Food for Others

If you have breadmaker or know how to bake bread, consider inviting some friends over and baking bread for neighbors or homeless people living in the area. If baking bread is too time-consuming or complicated, then consider making cupcakes.