Wouldn’t you like to get the gift of happiness this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza? Wouldn’t that be better than something you can buy in a store?

At the risk of being obvious: the happier you are, the less conflict you’re likely to create in all of your relationships. When you’re happy, you don’t need conflict. Conflict is an often-unconscious way of expressing unhappiness in your relationships with friends, lovers, relatives and colleagues. So, here’s my holiday gift to you: seven ideas (or “steps”) to bring more happiness and less conflict into your life:

Step 1: Let go of your stories. What we tell ourselves is self-fulfilling. If we keep telling ourselves the same stories over-and-over, we are doomed to repeat the same results. If you’re willing to release your old stories about yourself and the people in your life, you’re opening the door to happier experiences. Notice the stories you tell yourself about how people have hurt or betrayed you and what you’re perpetuating in your life with these stories of victimhood.

Step 2: Forgive people: I’ve held a lot of grudges in my life and none of them did me any good. While I was angry at people who I thought treated me badly and should be “punished”, they were off having fun without me. Who suffered? Here’s some good news: you don’t have to know how to forgive, just be willing. Even if you are so mad at the offender that you’re spitting bullets, if you are willing to forgive them, it’ll start the ball rolling.

Step 3: Embrace peace/release drama. For some people, drama gives them the illusion of feeling “alive”. These people are confused (or very, very young). Drama is not aliveness, it’s a substitute for aliveness. Aliveness is a life full of opportunity and possibilities. Drama sucks the energy out of you and is often a diversion from looking at deep (old) pain in your life. Face your pain, clean it up and reduce your drama.

Step 4: Learn more sophisticated ways of functioning. Are you and your friend/boss/mate playing out the same old routines over-and-over? Is it working? I didn’t think so. As we age, the Universe/God keeps showing us what we need to let go of in order to embrace something better. It’s like the Buddhist idea of the empty rice bowl: if you’re holding on to stale old rice in your bowl, there’s no room for fresh, new delicious rice. You’ve got to dump that stale, moldy old rice so there’s room for something new and wonderful. Scary? Sure. Productive? Absolutely.

Step 5: Polish your rough edges: We all have areas where we’re not so smooth or high functioning; start to notice them. If you really want to discover your “rough” spots, ask your closest friends: they probably see them much more clearly than you do. And don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect, instead, just notice your flaws and be willing to change. Start with compassion – not punishment – for yourself.

Step 6: Empty yourself.  Often our mind feels so full of thoughts that are hard to let go. These thoughts can keep us from falling asleep or enjoying time with people we love. Emptying yourself lets you dump all that mental junk. Try quietly and peacefully telling yourself, “I am empty” and see where it takes you.

Step 7: “I don’t need to know”. I tell myself this a lot! Many of us think that more information will bring us happiness. In fact, you will be happier if you can let go of having to “know” and “be right”. Wanting to be right is the cause of many, if not most, emotional conflicts. Information is useful, but only if you use it in a way that works for you and the people in your life. Too much information can actually be unhelpful. Try saying “I don’t need to know” and feel how freeing it is. Encourage your friends to try it too. You may all be surprised to find out that it’s true.

May these seven “gifts” bring you much joy and peace. Now, and always…