6 tips for mindful gift giving this Christmas
So Christmas is just over four weeks away now, and the silly season is well and truly upon us. Christmas parties, work drinks, school concerts, end of year parties, and Christmas carols on repeat in all the shopping centres. The Christmas decorations are going up, the kids (and teachers!) are counting down to the end of term, and people are thinking about gifts. Gifts for family, friends, teachers, coaches, classmates, work colleagues, children, parents, pets. So many gifts! But would you like to give gifts more mindfully this year? Well then, read on for some tips on mindful gift giving this Christmas, and change the way you give gifts for good!
The problem with Christmas gifts
There’s no avoiding gifts at this time of year. Everywhere you look, there’s an ad. An email. A catalog. A blog (sorry!) offering advice about what to buy for the people in your life. These ads promise to make people happy with the “best gifts ever”. They offer gifts that will make them fall in love with you. Gifts that will make it “The best Christmas ever!”. Gifts that will make them happy.
But can you feel that pressure mounting already? To choose THE perfect gift that will solve all the worlds problems?! So. Much. Pressure. In fact, it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and give up on gifts forever isn’t it?!
The benefits of Christmas gifts
But you know what? Gifts are a part of Christmas. An important part. So let’s not demonise gifts, ok?! I happen to enjoy receiving gifts. And I bet you do too. I also LOVE giving gifts to the people I love and care about. I love choosing something for them that I know they’ll enjoy and will make them smile. I love making them feel appreciated and loved. And I love the look of joy on my kids faces on Christmas morning when they open a gift I’ve chosen just for them.
In addition to bringing them joy, giving gifts also teaches kids some important lessons. For example, choosing gifts for others helps children develop empathy. That’s because they have to think about what the other person might like, rather than choose something they like themselves. They have to put themselves into another person’s shoes. Giving to others also teaches them kindness. And doing kind things for others; expressing your admiration and gratitude for that person through gift giving, helps build connection and positive relationships.
Mindless gift giving
You know what I don’t like about gift giving at this time of year, though? The pressure. The obligation. The expectation. The gifts for the sake of gifts. I actually really dislike the office secret Santa. There. I said it. I dread it when it rolls around each year. Why? Because it feels so forced. It’s a gift for a person I barely know, that I have to pay an arbitrarily chosen amount of money for, and that they probably don’t need, won’t like, will already have, or will toss or re-gift. It’s a gift with no meaning. Mindless gift giving. Ugh.
So what is mindful gift giving then?
Mindful gift giving is the exact opposite of mindless gift giving! When we give gifts mindfully, we give from the heart. We think about what is meaningful for the receiver of the gift, how we want them to feel, and the reasons why we are giving them a gift. Gift giving is an act of love. It should be a gesture that shows someone what they mean to us, and how much we care about them.
Mindful gift giving is not about what we spend, or how many gifts we give, or whether our gift is better than someone else’s. It doesn’t matter if our gift is the biggest, or the latest model. Mindful gift giving is an act of gratitude and caring. And it doesn’t need to be complicated!
To keep it simple, try to keep these questions in your mind when choosing a gift for your loved ones: What meaning and value do I attach to gift giving? What are my values in general? Does this gift reflect my values? What message do I want to send with this gift?
Here are some more tips for mindful gift giving this Christmas:
1. Think about your recipient’s values
Think about what the recipient of your gift values. What are they really passionate about? What makes them smile? What lights them up? What is important to them? Now use this to guide your gift buying. A thoughtful gift is a meaningful gift.
2. Give experiences rather than things
Are you worried about clogging up the houses of your loved ones with more “stuff” they don’t need? Why not buy them an experience instead? Experiences like movies, concerts, massages, or even a class they’ve always wanted to do, make great gifts. Even better, offer to go with them!
3. Give gifts that foster connection with others
Speaking of which, if you’re going to choose a gift, why not make it something they can share with a friend? Something that brings them closer to others and encourages meaningful connection. A board game. A picnic basket. Two concert tickets.
4. Give your time
Offering yourself up for service is a truly meaningful way to let someone know how much you care. After all, nothing is more valuable than your time. Think about what you can offer. What are you good at? Can you offer to make them dinner? Baby sit the kids? Walk the dog? Teach them to hula? Use your skills to help.
5. Make it yourself
Who says gifts have to be store bought? I don’t know about you, but some of the most treasured gifts I’ve ever received have been handmade for me with love. So much love and care goes into a handmade gift, it’s a great way to show someone how much they mean to you.
6. Skip it
Yep that’s right. Don’t buy them a gift. Who says you have to anyway? If your friend/family member/neighbour/sister has lots of stuff already and has said they don’t need anything, or, maybe you’re just stuck for ideas and feeling uninspired…don’t buy them anything.
Sometimes kind words or a heart felt note mean much more than a gift purchased just for the sake of it. Write them a note or card telling them why you love them, why you’re glad they’re in your life, or what they mean to you. Share your favourite memory of the two of you, or a funny story from your past. It doesn’t really matter what you share – just make it personal.
Hopefully you’ve got some ideas now that will help you give more mindfully this Christmas. But if you’d like even more mindful gift giving ideas; gifts that encourage healthy living – healthy minds, healthy bodies, and a healthy planet – head on over to my A Mindful Little Christmas gift guide. You can choose mindful gifts, and support small businesses while you’re at it!
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.