Happy friends

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

With the holiday season now in full swing, it's easy for us to get caught up in the stress of a long to-do list, preparing for parties and rushing around to buy gifts. And, with money tight for many of us this year, there's added stress as we think about what to buy for family members, friends, co-workers and others.

Instead of giving stuff for the holidays, what if we gave the people in our life the best gift of all: our appreciation ? Let the people around you know what you appreciate about them and why.

What do you value most about your best friend? What is it about your kids that you really appreciate? What do you love best about your spouse? How does your co-worker or your boss make your job easier and more fun?

Expressing our heartfelt and genuine appreciation for the important people in our life is magical and essential to our ability to create happiness, fulfillment, loving relationships, healthy families and productive communities. Appreciation is also an important element of effectively dealing with challenges and uncertainty that so many of us now face.

This year our holiday gifts can be expressions of true appreciation, which will have real impact on our relationships and make this holiday season more memorable. And with many of us in difficult financial situations, taking time to appreciate others and life is even more important this year.

Try the following three simple suggestions to make your holiday gifts and your holiday season special and meaningful.

Women exchanging cards

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

2. Write Thank-You Cards
In addition to (or instead of) giving gifts, take time to write heartfelt thank-you cards . Write cards of gratitude, letting the people around you know what you appreciate about them and how they have affected your life in a positive way. Express your appreciation genuinely, specifically and personally—in a heartfelt way.

Woman giving a friend a gift

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

3. Ask People What They Really Want
Giving something specific that someone really wants will make them feel appreciated and valued. It doesn't have to be expensive, as long as it's personal to them. And, if you ask them directly, you may find out that what they really want is something simple that can't be bought .
Women painting walls

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

4. Give the Gift of Your Time and Service
Make a list of a few important people in your life, and instead of buying them a gift, ask each of them if you can help with a project they've been putting off. Schedule a time to visit their house, or support them specifically in getting that task or project accomplished.

Remember what most people want, more than anything else, is to know that they are loved, valued and appreciated. Appreciation truly is the best gift we can give to the people in our lives—for the holidays and at any time of the year.

Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.

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