11/26/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2015

The True Gifts of the Holidays

Every year during this time in America, our values and priorities are put to the test as we are bombarded with messages that promote reckless consumption as well as expectations for unlimited merriment. Deep beneath the hedonism of the holiday season there are many bountiful gifts that can serve as a wellspring of sustenance throughout the year.

The first of these is gratitude. Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for the goodness in all areas of our lives. Too often we take the simple things for granted; yet, it is the simplest of things that have the greatest impact in our everyday lives. In my life, I am very fortunate to have access to clean water, a safe and stable place to sleep every night, a secure job, the ability to choose what to eat (within reason) at every meal, and a vehicle to roam the earth at my leisure. I am in good health, I am nurtured through caring relationships, and I have been gifted with kindness, intellect, and creativity. Although it might seem as though some areas of my life are out of control and others are not quite what I would like them to be, I have all of the basic building blocks needed to create a fulfilling and meaningful life. A daily gratitude ritual, along with continual intentional integration of thankfulness into every thought and action, is indeed a celebration of our vitality and our truest purpose in life. We can and should give thanks each and every day.

The second gift is connection. During the holiday season, we reach out to people, albeit often in somewhat superficial ways, to reconnect and enjoy each others' company. We party, we pray, we shop, and we rest together. We share stories about the direction of our lives and offer gifts to let others know we care. We think of people who sometimes escape our attention during the remainder of the year, such as children who will not be receiving presents or senior citizens who will be alone and hungry. We reach out to them as well, offering a bit of our time or our money to add cheer to their holiday season. Connecting and sharing with others during the holiday season creates memories that stay with us until it is time to start all over again next fall. Beautiful memories such as these can be created at any time during the year. Reaching out to a friend, a relative, or a neighbor in need with sincerity, appreciation, and love is almost always welcome. That blissful feeling of carefree joy can be recreated at any moment on any day of the year by sharing ourselves with others.

The holidays also invoke a sense of deep peace to which we may be oblivious at other times of the year. For some people. For most of us, we are rushing from one engagement to another and depleting our bank accounts. We lose sight of the blissful retreat that this season offers -- a time to snuggle under blankets, drink hot chocolate and warm apple cider, and reflect upon what truly matters in our life. And of course there is also an historical and spiritual basis for the season which too often gets lost in the rush and glitter we impose upon ourselves and each other.

If you are starting to feel frazzled, before December even arrives, you are not alone. This has become a part of our American tradition. This holiday season, let's start a new tradition. One that prepares us to be better people in the new year -- not thinner, richer, and lazier but more grateful, more connected, and more peaceful. The good memories we create now will warm our hearts through the bitter winter, and the possibilities for creating such experiences throughout the year are only limited by our imaginations. This is the time to establish habits that enrich our lives, and the world, every single day.