11/12/2013 12:49 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

A Priceless Holiday Season

The music, the decorations, the sale ads -- the holidays are already here.

Like a lot of people, I sometimes find this time of year to be hard. Between the loss of family gatherings due to time and distance, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and a partridge in a pear tree, I would much rather just skip to January 2.

While I wrote a rant about my seasonal societal annoyances a couple of years ago, this will not be that post's sequel.

(Summary if you don't want to click over: Practice an "attitude of gratitude" on a daily basis, not just when people gather around a bird carcass stuffed with stale bread and the creepy uncle makes jokes about being either a breast man or a leg man.)

This year is going to be different.

There won't be a big family meal, and come Christmas there won't be many -- if any -- gifts. Times are tight and money is even tighter, regardless of the date on the calendar.

I've never been bitter because we don't have money for things, but I do get annoyed that others are so obsessed with those things. However, I get it. It's easy to feel pressured to buy useless stuff, eat things that don't make you feel good and stress about spending time with people you might not enjoy all that much.

But when that's no longer an option, you learn a valuable lesson -- be better, not bitter and be thankful for all that you have.

It's different when you're a kid. The holidays are a magical time with no worries, only wonder. The fact that parents can take the time to create fun traditions and keep that magic alive is priceless, and something I keep with me now.

Growing up I was lucky enough to get those special gifts I asked for and the big ol' family meals. Every holiday dozens of people in my big Polish family would be at my grandparent's, crammed around tables full of food and conversation.

And while I might remember a few of the special gifts that I got, those "things" aren't first on my mind.

What I remember much more are the things that we did and said, making the food that we ate and places we went every year. That's what the holidays were, and that's what they continue to be.

So this year with every Black Friday ad, every person complaining about "surviving the holidays" like it's a terminal illness and the obsession with gathering "things," I won't roll my eyes and dish out perspective with each self-created drama they lament.

Instead I will remind them to focus on figuring out what holiday experiences are personally meaningful to them instead of getting sucked into events that leave them feeling empty and drained.

Instead of feeling burdened to buy gifts, connect to why the person they're shopping for is special to them and how they want them to feel when they open the gifts. (There is no better feeling than finding the "perfect" gift, even if that gift is a card.)

Instead of debt, try donations. It's something you never regret.

Instead of rushing around, stop and take in the sights and the smells of the season. Step back and ask, "What do I want to remember?" And if they have kids, "What do I want them to remember?"

So even though these weeks might be rough, I remember those things from above and know the season can always feel priceless.

And for that -- this year and always -- I am truly rich and thankful.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

For more by Abby Heugel, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.