As we are frantically buying last-minute gifts, trying to figure out if we bought enough of the right “stuff” for everyone on our list, and wondering what gifts we will have to unwrap tomorrow morning, I want to share a story with you.

A couple of years ago, a client of mine, a very dutiful, loving only child walked into her therapy appointment hysterically crying because she did not have the money to buy her parents an iPad for Christmas. I was trying to understand why she thought her parents would care if she bought them such a lavish gift, knowing she was in graduate school. I inquired, “What kind of daughter are you every day, Amy? In November and July? When your parents are sick and in need?” Because that is what it’s truly about—how we treat people all the time, not just when a special occasion rolls around. The quality of our lives is based on being authentic, loving, generous, and forgiving. These are the gifts that add true value to our relationships.

If you struggle with the mindset that this time of year is all about the “stuff” and equate what others buy you with how much they love you—it is time to challenge this thinking. Can you shift the focus to how kind, generous, and present you can be this season and all year round? I think you can.

Below are some ideas to Pay it Forward in this New Year:

Release Resentment

Forgive a long-held grudge and reach out. Not forgiving keeps you in “resentment prison.” This is a gift you can give yourself, as forgiveness is for the forgiver. And you would be amazed at how much energy will be freed up to put into something productive.

Say “Thank You”

Go out of your way to communicate your gratitude to the important people in your life for their presence. Write thank-you notes, smile, acknowledge, make eye contact, and say “thank you.”

Gratitude in Motion

Donate your time to help others less fortunate in your community.  Since love is all there is, try to honor that in your actions.  Teach children how to love with acts of kindness and generosity instead of things. Expanding their vision of gift-giving to include sharing their time and attention with those in need. This is a wonderful way to teach children the importance of service to others, and to keep your head at the heart of what really matters.

Extreme Self-Care

Taking excellent care of you is actually an act of generosity to others. When you are rested, well-fed, and calm you have more time, energy, and patience to give others. When you over-function and do too much, you end up resentfully checking items off your to-do list, and your relationships suffer.

Years from now, most people won’t remember what “stuff” they got or gave, but they will remember a kind word, emotional generosity, and feelings of appreciation.

One of my favorite lines comes from the cute, animated film Kung Fu Panda,

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift, and that is why it’s called the present.”

The best gift you can give this holiday season, and all year round, is YOUR presence in the present.

Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. For almost two decades, Terri has empowered companies, celebrities, professional athletes, and individuals to Live Fearless and Free. Currently, Terri is wrapping up her first solo book project, “Flip Over and Float—8 Steps to Sustainable Change,” filming “The Conversation” for the Lifetime Network, executive produced by Demi Moore, set to launch February 2012. Terri can also be seen as the guest transformation expert on A&E’s Monster In-Laws. In addition to her website, Terri can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.