It's the season of too, too much. Too much to do. Too many places to be. Too much for just one run-ragged soul.
Well, here's Plan B.
How about transforming this into a Season of Gratitude, one in which you put into practice the daily habit of being thankful, and doing so in ways unmistakable?
We've created a get-you-started game plan - actions you can take or thoughts to consider - that stretches from Dec. 1 to New Year's Day. Give 'em a whirl. Or invent your own.
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Dec. 1 - "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'Thank you,' that would be enough." -German philosopher Meister Eckhart
Dec. 2 - Tonight is the first full moon of the month, called "Long Night Moon," "Moon Before Yule" or "Full Cold Moon" by American Indians. Take a moon walk, and consider the gift of that night light that waxes and wanes but always guides our way.
Dec. 3 - When gathered with family or friends, tell each person one thing you've learned from him/her. Give everyone a turn to do the same.
Dec. 4 - Is there someone at work who makes you smile every day? Write an anonymous note of praise to that person's boss. Leaving no trace of who wrote it, drop a copy of the note on that someone's desk.
Dec. 5 - Teach the children in your life to say thank you. When you tuck them in bed, ask what they're most thankful for that happened that day.
Dec. 6 (Feast of St. Nick) - Be thankful for the good dose of childlike wonder that can still be sparked in your heart.
Dec. 7 - Before you leave the house this morning, remember to be thankful for the place that keeps you safe from life's storms.
Dec. 8 - Write a letter of thanks to your parents, or someone who was your "other mother," even if they're no longer alive. Share the letter with your own family.
Dec. 9 - Declare today Hold Open Doors and Yield for Traffic Day. (If you don't drive, give up your seat on the bus or the train.) Think of how warm it makes you feel when someone does the same for you, and offer up thanks to all the unsung souls who've paved your way with kindness.
Dec. 10 - Consider a life without complaints. Begin today. Cut yourself off if you hear yourself starting to whine, or complain about just about anything. Recruit anti-complaint compatriots. Maybe even launch an army of non-complainers. Try to make it all day without one lousy complaint. Check out acomplaintfreeworld.org, a Web site that aims to end complaining.
Dec. 11 (Hanukkah begins at sundown) - It's the season for candlelighting. Kindle lights according to your tradition, or begin a new one. As you watch the last of the candle burn, and the smoke furl upward, whisper thanks for a wish you hope comes true.
Dec. 12 - Delay dinner just long enough so everyone feels hungry. When you sit down to eat, be thankful for all the times you don't go hungry.
Dec. 13 - Start a collective "Season of Gratitude" book. Leave out construction paper and supplies for page making. Have everyone in the house (visitors too) create a page of what they're thankful for. It might be in the form of a poem, drawing or words cut from a magazine. Tuck into a binder. Leave it out for everyone to enjoy.
Dec. 14 - Word has it that the No. 1 most sought-after item at plenty of homeless shelters, besides coats and mittens, is deodorant. Toothpaste and soap are always welcome too. Why not donate deodorant (as well as other useful supplies) at the nearest shelter?
Dec. 15 - If you spot someone in the armed forces in line for a sandwich or drink, consider picking up the tab.
Dec. 16 - When you open your eyes this morning, think of three things for which you are deeply thankful. Live a grateful day.
Dec. 17 - Ever think how hard it is to deliver all that holiday mail? Greet your mail carrier with a jazzy pair of thick socks. And a note: "Thanks for all your schlepping."
Dec. 18 - Place paper and pencil on everyone's pillow, with instructions to write one thing that made them purr like a cat today. At breakfast, read the notes aloud.
Dec. 19 - Be Kind to Your Feathered Friends Day. Grab pine cones, smear them with peanut butter, roll in birdseed and stud with dried cranberries. Tie with a loop of red yarn or plain string. Hang outside on trees or bushes.
Dec. 20 - Take a walk and get a full dose of sunshine. Consider the bounty that begins with the rising of each day's burning orb of solar heat.
Dec. 21 (winter solstice) - Celebrate the darkness. Gather a few good souls after sundown, or go it alone. Make a bonfire or simply light candles. Tradition has it that fires are sparked on the longest night to help the sun get its job done. Give thought to the life that's birthed out of darkness. Remember: Through darkness come shards of light. Be thankful for dark spells.
Dec. 22 - Begin a perpetual gratitude list. Whenever you think of it, jot down something for which you are eternally grateful. On bad days, when you can't think of a thing to be thankful for, read your list.
Dec. 23 - Is there a checker at your market who almost always makes you laugh? Write a thank-you note, and hand it over just as you're leaving.
Dec. 24 - Think of someone in your neighborhood who could use a little extra cheer (or who has been superkind to you). Drop off the fixings for a grand breakfast.
Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) - Sometimes on the days billed as Big Ones, it's hard to live up to expectations. Try this: Get up before anyone else. Light a candle. Look out the window and quietly count your blessings.
Dec. 26 (Kwanzaa begins/Boxing Day) - Once upon a time, this was a day for gifting all those who had to toil on Christmas Day. Why not revive the tradition by thinking of someone who keeps your world afloat throughout the year? Maybe it's a bus or taxi driver. Or your doctor's answering service. Write a love note to your personal lifesaver.
Dec. 27 - Send a different kind of thank you. Instead of just writing a thank-you note for some treasure you received for the holidays, take a picture and make it into a postcard. Scribble a few words about how much the something meant to you, and drop your postcard in the mail.
Dec. 28 - Find a copy of "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" (Alfred A Knopf, 2009, $27.95), by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. You'll find lists of organizations to aid needy women around the world.
Dec. 29 - Share a cup of cocoa with a beloved child and explain just why you consider him or her a never-ending treasure. Seal the deal with a boa-constricting hug.
Dec. 30 - Think of something extraordinarily kind someone once did for you. Be on the lookout for someone you can gift with random kindness.
Dec. 31 (New Year's Eve) - Here's your once-in-a-blue-moon chance to wind up the year bursting with gratitude. Yup, it's the second full moon of the month, so consider enlisting a Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Brigade. Gather friends, cook up a big pot of soup or chili, with all the fixings. Deliver to your nearest soup kitchen, or a shut-in in your neighborhood.
Jan. 1 (New Year's Day) - A fabulous day to begin living a full year of gratitude. How about considering the blessings you bring to this world? Yes, you. If you fill yourself to the brim with a sense of how grateful you are for yourself and your own goodness, think how much easier it will be to discover gratitude all around you in the year that's just unfolding.