You know how it is so hard to figure out how to get a good gift for some people? You’re like, “They have everything they want and need, so what can I get them?”
If you’re anything like me, this makes you feel really stressed. Like you are somehow at fault for having such a terrible gift-giving imagination.
Want to know what the real problem is?
Most of us don’t need any more stuff! There actually isn’t anything we can buy each other that will do what we really want to do–bring our loved-ones happiness.
So what can you do?
Realize that lots of presents does not a happy holidays make
This is the conclusion of a paper published in the Journal of Happiness Studies by researchers Tim Kasser of Knox College and Kennon M. Sheldon of the University of Missouri-Columbia. After studying the holiday experiences of 117 individuals, they found that people who emphasized time spent with families and meaningful religious or spiritual activities had happier holidays.
“Despite the fact that people spend relatively large portions of their income on gifts, as well as time shopping for and wrapping them,” the researchers said, “such behavior apparently contributes little to holiday joy.” In fact, subjects who gave or received presents that represented a substantial percentage of their income, Kasser and Sheldon found, actually experienced less holiday joy.
Emphasize having a great experience rather than gift-giving
Even though oodles of presents over the holidays is the dominant American paradigm, it turns out that the real trick is to plan to have a great experience with your loved ones.
Instead of planning the holidays around presents, plan around:
- Having game sessions or sing-a-longs
- Cooking lovely meals together
- Taking time for everyone to talk about what they are grateful for
- Going as a family or group to do something for someone else
Buy gifts of fun times instead of boring trinkets
But none of this is to say you should ignore the expectations of the people you celebrate with. Those who expect presents should get them. Gifts, after all, are associated with the exchange of love.
But if you want to really make them happy, buy people experiences instead of things. It will actually make them happier. This is the conclusion of a book called Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. “Material things turn out to provide less happiness than experiential purchases,” they write.
So consider gifts like:
- Dinner for two at a special restaurant
- A massage
- Theater or cinema tickets
- A museum membership
Unlike those unwanted trinkets one sometimes buys for the “person who has everything,” these gifts might actually improve your loved ones’ lives.
(photo via blu-ray.com)