All I want for Christmas is… Gratitude

Words – Haili Hughes

The countdown has started and shops are full of seasonal wares. You can’t even turn on the TV or make a trip to the supermarket without being accosted by ‘must have items’ and ‘bargain deals’ you could treat your loved ones with. But what does it all mean? Of course it’s lovely to buy gifts for people; the warm fuzzy feeling inside when you give to others is one of the best things about Christmas. However, it’s now got to the stage where I avoid social media on Christmas Day. A barrage of designer handbags, charm bracelets and other flashy gifts, all punctuated by the hashtag #luckygirl make me long for a more simple time, where it wasn’t all such a competition.

According to the Imperial War Museum, Christmas gifts during the war years were practical and mostly recycled. With many luxuries being hard to come by, even Christmas wrapping was banned to conserve paper and cards were printed on more flimsy material. However, surely the hardest thing during the war years must have been the absence of loved ones: husbands, fathers, brothers and children, all in peril in a far off land. Reading this account of a wartime Christmas by Shirley Brittan from Bromsgrove (, really brought home just how lucky we are.

“Father Christmas would usually leave me a stocking full of fruit, a shiny new sixpence, a piece of coal — I think that was for luck but it was also very useful for keeping us warm! Pencils, hankies and knitted clothes. We never had individual presents from the family, and we had the wireless for entertainment and we all loved playing card games.”

It is a far cry from the piles of expensive, brightly wrapped presents that stack up underneath the tree today.

All of this research into Christmases past has really made me rethink my gift choices for people. Instead of going overboard on the latest hi-tech gadgets and sparkling jewellery, I am going back to basics.

Gratitude. It doesn’t need wrapping up in tissue paper and embellishing with a taffeta bow. It’s multi-functional as it is a gift you can receive and get at the same time. Instead of bankrupting myself with gifts that mean nothing, I am spending time with the people I love and contemplating why they matter to me. I am going to remember all of the conversations I have had with them, the happy memories we have shared. After I have done this, I will tell them how much they mean to me and how grateful I am to have them in my life. That’s the real meaning of Christmas.

There are countless benefits associated with being grateful. In fact, gratitude has been linked to increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have conducted research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to doctors than those who focused on sources of annoyance (British Psychological Society).

Giving thanks is one of the most powerful ways there is to increase your well being.

Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress – which let’s face it, during the festive season, that’s something we all want. Gratitude will change your life. For the better.

Model – Scarlett Luxe
Photography – Dave Merritt Photography
Clothing – Shani’s Showroom
Location – Three Swans, Frome
Jewellery – Splendette

Lisa Harrison
Written by Lisa Harrison
Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!