5 Recession Lessons For the Holidays - From My Cat

No, sleeping all day, though one of Sir Gallahad's favorite activities is not one of the fluffball's top five lessons. And if you feel taking advice from a cat is one step removed from cat-lady crazy, consider this: the cat is the only person in my immediate social circle whose daily ability to enjoy life is not impaired or informed by the news.

While I'm not advocating willful ignorance of the current state of the world, not getting caught up in all of the sensational headlines is a good starting point on the road back to finding true happiness this holiday season.

And so Sir Gallahad will now teach us the five things he does that make him a happy, healthy being in a time of extreme stress and uncertainty:

1. Your time is the most valuable gift you can give.

You don't need to spend wads of cash-or anything at all-to let the people you love know you care about them. The proof of your love lies in the quality time you carve out for them, whether it be through an uninterrupted cross-country phone call, a dinner shared, or a game of kick ball.

Planning time together that shows your friend/family member you've thought about his/her likes is even better. In Sir Gallahad's case, this means playing fetch instead of jingle ball on a stick. He thinks he's a dog.

2. Make time to exercise.

You've read it a thousand times. Exercising reduces stress. But there are other reasons why hitting the gym or your local bike path should be a daily part of your routine, like:

Exercising provides a social forum. If you've been laid off recently, you might be hurting for the daily interaction with coworkers that until now was the norm for you. Check out what group activities-from spinning, to yoga, hiking, and walks-are available through your local gym or your city. It's an excellent opportunity to meet new people, and get those endorphins to release so you don't wind up a self-imposed hermit.

The excuse that you should be spending all of your time looking for another job is not valid. Get up an hour early, go for a jog, lift some weights, then get your job-hunting game face on!

Sir Gallahad recruits people daily to play fetch with him. If they don't, he'll throw his own ball, attack Christmas tree ornaments, or jump up and down on the bed all morning to get his daily exercise.

3. Be thankful for the people in your life, and show them you are.

When you get down to it, nothing else really matters. The house you live in, your material possessions, the cars you drive. Your true friends are your friends because they like you. And you must have family members that love you unconditionally, even if you don't always agree with each other.

If all anyone can say about you when you leave town or this Earth is, "Man, that guy had a sweet car!" it may be time to reassess your values.

Sir Gallahad kisses his mom and dad, lies in their laps, and runs to the front door when they come home. You don't need tongue action with all of your friends and family to show them you appreciate them. A hug will do. Or a great big smile that demonstrates you're happy to see them.

4. Keep yourself groomed.

Sir Gallahad is always clean and neat, whether he's lounging around by himself, or entertaining guests.

Taking pride in your appearance boosts your self confidence. You never know, your next job might come from a friendly conversation in the grocery store checkout line. You'll be more likely to talk-and more likely to make a good impression-if you don't look like you came straight from your bed.

People are attracted to confidence. If you're feeling a little shakey lately, as we all are, fake it 'till you make it. Sir Galahad doesn't always land on his feet, as cats are supposed to, but he still thinks he's hot stuff even after he misses the couch by a few inches.

5. Don't hide under the bed.

Opportunity awaits, but chances are it's not hiding in your bedroom. Or on your couch in front of the TV. Your favorite stars didn't become famous overnight. It took 10 years for some of them to finally break through.

View this period of your life as an opportunity to set yourself up for stardom. Take some community college classes that might help advance your career, or change courses altogether. Intern at a company you may want to work for someday. Feed the homeless.

Do something that gets you out there, so you can network. No matter how easy and useful online social networking is, nothing beats face-to-face action. Unless the guy you meet in class is a real arse, he will not ignore you when you speak to him. Online, he'll just ignore your friend request.

Sir Galahad is still working on this lesson. New people scare him, so he hides under the bed when they come over. But when he comes out, he finds somebody new to play with-someone who is not sick of throwing his ball for him, or who didn't know he'd already been fed-and realizes that he's been missing out.

Life's hard right now. But it's important to look at the bigger picture instead of getting embroiled in the negative. Are you healthy? There's something to be extremely happy about. Do you have a best friend? A mom? A dad? Happy. Happy. Happy.

Troubled times force us to be more introspective, figuring out who we are without our job descriptions, and what we value without our possessions. Sir Galahad may only be a cat, but he's got a pretty good hold on what's most important in his life. It's just that those things are all that's going on in his life!

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