While it can be joyful and exciting to partake in this season of gift-giving, there’s a fine line between finding a gift that its recipient will truly enjoy, and just buying them something, anything: Does Uncle Fred really need another tie? He’s so hard to buy for. What does that guy want, anyway?! When we’re feeling the pressure to get everything done to prepare for the holidays, gift-giving can end up being rushed, stressful, maybe even a little mindless.
But it’s not so difficult to shift toward a more mindful way of gifting, such as gifting experiences, instead of more items they may not want or need. This could mean anything from an offer to cook and eat a meal with them, to a ticket for a special event, workshop, or class, to an online course. By gifting experiences instead of things, we can focus on the real goals of exchanging gifts: to express love and generosity to the people we care about, create opportunities to connect with them, and contribute to their greater well-being and happiness.
By gifting experiences instead of things, we can focus on the real goals of exchanging gifts: to express love and generosity to the people we care about, create opportunities to connect with them, and contribute to their greater well-being and happiness.
As Susan Kaiser-Greenland notes: “I’m not saying we shouldn’t give or receive gifts. Of course we can, and being generous is a wonderful thing to do. Just notice what’s actually happening inside yourself in the process.” As a bonus, mindful gifting helps to lower your holiday stress, and can lighten the strain of overconsumption of the earth’s resources.
The Benefits of Gifting Experiences, Instead of Things
Explore these three ways to discover the benefits of gifting experiences:
- Start by centering your intentions. Sara Kate Gillingham suggests considering what makes the holidays special to you and setting an intention, like “I will give only things that allow me to share time with people,” or “I will give from the heart.”
- Think about the long-term meaning of your gift. Sure, a box of holiday chocolates is a classic (and tasty) present—but what might your person really savor for a longer time? Science shows that experiential gifts can evoke a strong emotional response—whether it’s awe, excitement, or calm—that lasts longer than the thrill of material possessions. Mark Rucker explains the research on four ways to make your gifts truly meaningful.
- Weave gratitude into your gift-giving. If you like, you could tell your person about what you’re gifting them and why with a handwritten card or letter that expresses your appreciation for them. “Appreciation is about deepening the connection you feel for what you are grateful for,” writes Jennifer Wolkin. Try this five-minute writing practice to help you communicate your appreciation—a gift in itself—to your loved one.
The Gift of Giving
Give yourself the gift of rethinking gift giving, writes Sara Kate Gillingham. Reconnect with love and generosity and the rest will fall into place. Read More
4 Ways to Make Your Gifts Meaningful
Psychologist and behavioral scientist Dr. Mike Rucker offers tips for giving gifts that are sustainable, meaningful, and more fulfilling. Read More
A 5-Minute Writing Practice to Help You Express Gratitude
Sometimes we can be grateful for people or things in our lives without really appreciating them. In this practice, Jennifer R. Wolkin, PhD offers a way to slow down and appreciate what’s around you. Read More