In a few days it will be December, and Christmas stuff will be fully upon us, coming in hot from all directions!

For many years I managed a huge movie theater. It was very popular on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, days that studios put out their biggest films in an attempt to cash in on bored kids and frustrated parents (and a few nerds, what up my Star Wars peeps!).

Christmas was the worst day of the year to work in a movie theater. I don’t have scientific documentation to back this claim up, but for some reason, people who go to movies on Christmas are pretty grumpy. I have theories: they’re maxed out on extended family time; they overspent and have anxiety about post-holiday bills; the stress of “making the holidays nice” for others has drained them of their social graces. Whatever it is that causes the Christmas Day Grumps, it was well-known among the staff that we’d take a few hits that day, and maybe the occasional “I’m going to write a Yelp review taking this theater DOWN!”

Perhaps I’m just sensitive, but it strikes me that as a culture, we’ve grown more callous and less compassionate lately. Without going too deep into it, there are probably a lot of reasons why, from economic disparity and racial tensions to the election and subsequent reign of terror of The Orange Menace. We all have a lot of anxiety about the future and our ability to pay the bills and survive. We have to express those feelings somehow, and negative emotions often come out as negative acts, words or intentions toward others. We’ve all been there.

The Christmas season is traditionally about “peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” but we spend most of the run up to the holiday stressing ourselves out, spending money on gifts, food, booze, decorations, travel and other seasonal stuff. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are wonderful and are meant to be enjoyed! There are other kinds of gifts that I always forget about, though, and this year I think I’m catching myself in time to give a few for Christmas.

I’ve been practicing giving little gifts to people in my life that don’t cost me anything other than a little bit of love and time (hey, I’m on a budget, don’t judge me!). And I’ve found that almost across the board, my life feels a little better and I feel more connected. While I can’t speak for others, I hope that they feel some value in these acts too. I thought I’d share some of these things with the Hustle and Flow community today as we lead up to the big day, just as a simple reminder that the word “gift” can mean a lot of different things.

Tell people you love that you love them. It sounds so dumb to have to remind ourselves of this one, but I need to remind myself for sure. Recently, my chosen family and I unexpectedly lost someone very special to us. And we’ve been making sure to just say “I love you” to each other as much as possible in the wake of this tragedy. It makes a difference! I feel closer and have more gratitude for my circle just from hearing myself say “I love you” out loud and hearing it from others. There is power in our words.

Apologize to someone. This one can be hard if you have a long-running beef with someone. Dismantling that can take time, and you don’t want to upset someone by dredging up the past. But most of us have a memory of some wrongdoing or someone we’ve slighted in a way that’s maybe not apocalyptic, but deserves an apology anyway. Taking a second to acknowledge your role in someone’s hurt feelings doesn’t have to be something to feel guilty about; maybe we can frame it as a reminder of how much of an impact we can have on one another.

Call someone you rarely talk to but think about a lot. I did this recently with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in over a year, but who had played a huge part in my life before that. We had the best time talking to each other, catching up on what was happening in our lives and just connecting and listening. It was a real treat for me, and I think that she was happy I was thinking of her. We all like to be thought of, and even if you just leave a message, the recipient will at least know you had them on your mind.

Compliment someone on something (but leave their body parts out of it). Particularly when it comes to women, saying “I love your look, it’s totally savage, Queen” is very different from “you look great in that dress.” While one focuses on the person’s fashion sense, the second focuses on how their body looks, however well-intentioned. All people are whole humans with depth, interests and accomplishments, and we all want to be recognized for them. Tell someone what you admire about them that transcends their physical packaging.

Sing with someone. We’ve all seen those Norman Rockwell paintings of a family gathered around the piano, singing together. These days we’ve got Spotify and YouTube. Whatever you’ve got, sing along! Singing feels good, relieves stress and makes us happy, and pretty much anyone can do it. You’re not on American Idol, who cares if you “sound good.” Grab the kiddos in your life and put on a variety show. Sing in the car with your mom on the way to the grocery store. Make up a silly song with your best friend about how much you both hate Christmas shopping. Sing, enjoy, and create a great memory.

Share something special to you. As far as traditional gifts go, sharing something that means something to the gift giver is such an awesome thing to receive! I like to bake for people, make tiny demons out of clay for them (long story), or share a class or a concert with them. I got a real thrill when one of my best friends joined me for a yoga class at Hustle and Flow because she’s special to me, and so is my practice at the studio. If you love what you do at Hustle and Flow, share it with a friend! You can pick up class passes or a reduced rate first month unlimited pass for gift giving from your instructor at any class. Check out the schedule here.

Whatever you choose, we hope you can enjoy some relaxation and joy this December! We’ll see you at the studio soon!