When referring to temperance and other virtues for that matter, Aristotle often used the phrase “the golden mean” that implied the perfect amount of virtue for a given situation. This is not the golden mean that is more commonly referred to as the golden ratio of 1.6180339887… although that is an interesting subject itself.

For example, when referring to courage in a dangerous situation the golden mean would dictate that you would act in a manner directly between cowardice and foolish heroics. The golden mean is different for everyone. With respect to temperance and drinking alcohol, the golden mean or the amount one would drink would vary between individuals of extreme body weights and degrees of tolerances to the effects of alcohol.

Simply put the golden mean refers to the right balance of any given activity. Many of us tend to overindulge in a variety of extra curricular activities during the holidays. Eating and shopping are two of the more common. This behavior can be tolerated as long as it has not or does develop into frequent habit.

There are many negative consequences associated with overeating particularly unhealthy foods. First, there is the issue of increased body weight that leads to a myriad of negative medical health issues including but not limited to, increased strain on body joints, higher levels of cholesterol, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease and decreased tolerance of the immune system. Second, is the feeling of decreased energy or fatigue due to the constant metabolism of food. Finally, the combination of being overweight, possible health issues and reduced energy levels leads to lower self-esteem.

Even if you do not have a habit of eating poorly, practicing temperance in eating over the holidays is a good idea. Why? The holidays tend to be stressful for many because of all of the additional tasks associated with them like gatherings or parties, additional cooking and spending, wrapping presents, writing holiday cards, making travel accommodations etc... All of these activities are in addition to your standard personal and career routines. Remember, overeating causes reduced energy and lower self-esteem so why would you want to stack the deck against yourself when your intent is to enjoy the holidays?

Holiday shopping is another area where many people tend to tip the scales of temperance. As I mentioned before, this central pivot point of the temperance scale will be different for each individual or family. Regardless of your means there is still a golden mean that lies somewhere between miserly and superfluous.

When purchasing gifts for friends or family there are a few dimensions that need to be taken into consideration. First, how much can you truly afford to spend? The answer to this question is simple; that amount that would not cause you any economic stress, compromise items of necessity or deviate from any ongoing financial goals. Any items purchased with a credit card should be able to be paid off during the next statement cycle. One of the best ways to ensure a financial stress free holiday season is to save a small amount of money each month throughout the year. This concept used to be in the form of a Christmas club account but any savings account can meet this goal.

Second, once you decide on an amount to spend then you have to decide who will be the beneficiaries of your generosity. You could decide to do this step first if you are going to set up a plan to have this money put aside in advance. Remember it is the amount you can afford comfortably that should determine how much you spend not how many gifts you think you need to purchase.

Third, what gifts are you going to purchase? This is always a difficult decision that adds more stress to the holidays particularly the more you procrastinate. Less expensive gifts that have been given careful thought trump those that are more expensive but have been given no thought. However, sometimes it is just plain difficult to find that perfect gift for someone even more so when pressed with a deadline. If you can’t find thoughtful, strive for useful. I personally like the idea of gift cards. They may seem impersonal but as a recipient I have always found them very useful. Since virtually every business now offers them you can still tailor the gift cards to the person’s taste of stores or specialty shops.

For parents, how much are you going to spend on your children? How many gifts does it take to make a happy child? Are you going to buy a few very nice and expensive gifts, a bunch of mid-priced presents, a plethora of inexpensive toys that have the half-life of a week or some combination of the aforementioned? Are you going to buy them what they want, what they need or what you think they should have? I only offer the following as a guideline. Buy them a few things they need, something they want and something you think they should have (usually something educational). Most of all give them your time and your love and make those two of your daily habits.

The holidays are about giving not spending and eating. So live your life with no regrets and think about temperance during the holidays and everyday.

Author's Bio: 

Mike McCall is a former Naval Officer and the founder of No Regrets Lifestyle, a personal improvement company offering information and services dedicated to helping people live interesting, fun, meaningful and good lives and whose mission is to help improve the world we live in by raising awareness of moral behavior and improving the quality of life of our subscribers through writings such as our weekly blog, monthly newsletter, our own books and self-development courses along with recommended books and programs by other authors. Visit NoRegretsLifestyle.com to find out more.