How to Reject Consumerism and Actually Enjoy the Holidays

Psychotherapist and author Jonathan Alpert teaches you how to keep your sanity this holiday season.

Daniel Grizelj/ Getty Images
Daniel Grizelj/ Getty Images

With each passing year, more and more people seem to feel disenchanted at this time of the year by the rampant consumerism and commercialization that dominate the Holiday season. The holiday specials that were once unleashed only after Halloween we now see in full glory well before October 31. We are, after all, a nation driven by the dollar more than anything else, so this is not surprising. That said there are things that you can do to try to make a change, even if only within yourself and close circle of friends and family. Here’s how you can enjoy the holidays and not get caught up in the consumerism frenzy:

1. Know that you are not alone with your beliefs. Test it out–go and poll 10 people about the holiday season. Ask them how they feel about gift buying. My guess is the majority would like to spend less and make it more about people than about the gifts. That said, you can be the one to make a change and set a limit on spending and the way you and your friends/family celebrate the holiday.

2. Know the difference between Hallmark and Hollywood and the true meaning of the holidays. Accept the notion that materialism is not an expression of what the holidays truly represent, nor do extravagance and expensive gifts equal happiness.

3. Make a choice: participate in it or don’t. If you’re having money woes, then be creative and spare the craziness of the shopping malls. Set an example for friends and family by doing something that reflects your beliefs. Be creative by making greeting cards and giving homemade gift certificates to your friends and family spelling out how you’ll treat them. For example, offer to spruce up your parents’ yard come Spring time, help your sister with babysitting, or make a home-cooked dinner for a friend. In lieu of cheesy grab bags at the office party suggest donating to a worthy charity. Keep in mind that the most memorable gift you can give someone is an experience, not a material item. People remember activities and experiences long after the fleeting excitement of a toy, article of clothing, or other material gift.

4. Gain control. Know that you actually have control over what you participate in and what you don’t. Ask yourself: do I have to attend every party or am I saying yes because I feel pressured to do so? Don’t feel compelled to accept every invitation. Get comfortable saying “no” to what you don’t want and “yes” to the things you truly believe in. Doing so will help you to feel less resentful and stressed and much calmer during the holidays.

5. Examine your negativity. Scrooge isn’t just a fictitious character. There are some who strongly believe the holidays are nonsense and serve no purpose. Think about it, can you glean something positive from the season? By making small changes to how you think, you’ll be able to make big changes in how you feel.

6. Volunteer to take the focus off yourself and more on those in need. And of course, remember the tried and tested stress management essentials: eating healthily by setting limits with your intake of holiday spirits and food, exercising to burn stress, getting proper rest, and being flexible with your schedule. For more tips on how to have a healthy and happy holiday season, check out my new book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.  

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