Gift giving, for many, is a central part of the holiday season. Of course, a lot of people get carried away with this tradition, but it doesn’t have to be without heart. I like to give presents that are both meaningful and memorable. I think gifts should be unique to the person—their interests, their experiences, their goals—and giving gifts can be a chance to acknowledge and validate the people in your life.
Being generous is also good for you. Studies show people have a positive psychological response when they give to others, making them feel connected, optimistic, and less stressed.
Still, the effort to give and give well can become challenging and overwhelming year after year—so here are a few tips to help you out. None of these ideas are expensive, and they may not even be that extraordinary, but they are simple suggestions to make sure you are investing intentionally in the lives of others, not just working through your shopping list.
1.“These are a few of your favorite things.” If you’re having trouble deciding on one large gift that perfectly captures your friend’s personality, switch things up and broaden your focus. What’s their favorite candy? Their favorite movie? Their favorite type of pen? Their favorite sports team? Create a grab bag of sorts with several items related to these must-haves. Then, rather than include a traditional card, write about your favorite memory of your relationship or a favorite thing about them.
2.Peace and goodwill. Holidays bring up a lot of feelings, and not all of them are warm and fuzzy. There might be some notable people excluded from your celebration plans, perhaps because of hurt feelings, miscommunication, or past mistakes. Consider those strained relationships this season and if you might have a responsibility or opportunity to reconnect with them. Maybe it’s time to make that phone call or write that letter you’ve been putting off. Maybe when you go home for the holidays, you should meet up over coffee with someone you’d like to forgive—or apologize to. Reconciliation and renewed friendship are gifts that keep on giving.
3.Re-gift. No, not like that. Have you ever seen The Family Stone? There’s a scene at the end in which a character gives a framed, enhanced version of a cherished black and white family photo to several other characters (and I cry every time). This is a great example of the kind of “re-gifting” I’m referring to. Think back and look around for old heirlooms or photos that can be repurposed in some way. You could recreate a childhood picture of you and your siblings for your parents—same poses, same location, different year, a new memory. Did you and a friend go on a life-changing road trip or attend a big concert this year? Put together a “memory box” with ticket stubs, photos, and souvenirs so you never forget it. Is there a nostalgic toy, vinyl, or collectible that a family member might have lost or broken? It could be even more special when they receive it the second time around.
4.Just a little time. For the friend or relative who has everything, give something that will always be appreciated: quality time. Set aside an afternoon to spend together, doing whatever they would like to do. Plan a picnic or a home-cooked meal with all the foods they often crave. Set up a scavenger hunt around town, a tour of an attraction they’ve always wanted to visit, or a movie night featuring that film they know by heart.
5.The gift of hope. If you’re a TWLOHA supporter, there are a number of ways your holiday giving can also be an investment in our mission. Maybe you’d like to honor someone you’ve lost or remember those struggling with the issues we address by donating to TWLOHA. Our merchandise sales also provide funds that allow us to continue educating people about mental health, pointing individuals to resources, and donating toward treatment and recovery options. (And we work hard to offer unique designs from talented people, too!) If you’re hoping to order a TWLOHA product for someone by Christmas, it might be a little late, but we have also made digital gift cards available this year. When you give to TWLOHA, or give one of our items to a loved one, you are also giving hope and help to many others.
This list is just a start, but we hope it gets you thinking about how to be truly generous—not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.
Do you have other ideas for being present and giving meaningful presents this year? Tell us more in the comments below.