It’s that time of year again; time to gather with our loved ones, carry on family traditions and enjoy some delicious food. It is also a time when most of us are more inclined to reach out to others. Perhaps we volunteer in a soup kitchen, donate toys to needy children, or sing Christmas carols to the elderly in nursing homes. Regardless of our approach, we generally seem to be more tuned into the needs of others during this time of year. For this reason, the holiday season seems to be a natural time to cultivate generosity.  

Jon Kabat-Zinn has identified 9 attitudes of mindfulness, and one of these is generosity. In his definition of generosity he explains, “I am not talking solely of money or material possessions, although it can be wonderfully growth-enhancing, uplifting and truly helpful to share material abundance. Rather, what is being suggested here is that you practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, and above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.” 

The holiday season often comes with a feeling of excitement closely followed by a sense of being overwhelmed. In our attempts to make the perfect meal, buy the best presents and attend multiple social functions, stress is almost unavoidable. Our good intentions simply let us get carried away. Kabat-Zinn’s definition of generosity is a good reminder for us to scale back, slow down and not feel like we need to do everything for everyone.  If we can practice “sharing the fullness of our being” with those around us, we are enriching their lives as well as our own.   

Another important thing to remember is that while generosity can be about sharing yourself, it is not about forgetting your own needs. Kabat-Zinn observes, “A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts…such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation — to simply receive from yourself.” 

In other words, as you go about this holiday season, you can cultivate an attitude of generosity by being fully present, giving your time when possible, lending a listening ear and practicing self-acceptance.  

If you are a teacher in need of some ideas for how to help students in you classroom foster generosity, check out this article with 10 simple ideas for fostering generosity in students.