There is much to be mindful of this holiday season. New ways of gathering with our loved ones, small business closures, and increased stress are just a few of the things that might be different for us this year. When it comes to holiday gift giving, we might feel a bit overwhelmed.
How should we get our gifts to loved ones if we’re not meeting in person?
What can we offer that is thoughtful and nourishing during these times?
What if we are dealing with financial stress?
This comprehensive guide explores mindful gift giving from a variety of angles, including what mindful gifts might look like and a broad selection of mindful holiday gift ideas. In its totality, it covers:
A Mindful Approach to Gifts
First, let’s clarify what we mean by mindful gift giving. Does it mean shopping locally? Does it mean spending less, or perhaps spending more out of generosity? Is it something just for meditators? What does a mindful gift look like?
Taking a mindful approach to gift giving is less about the gifts themselves and more about the energy behind them. It is about bringing thought and care to what we are giving, to the person we are giving to, and to the act of giving itself. When it comes to holiday gifting, this might look like shopping locally or it could mean gifting a virtual service. It could look like gifting generously financially or it could mean offering our love, attentiveness, or service.
Furthermore, mindful gift giving is not just for meditators. Rather, mindfulness is a quality that we bring to our gift giving, regardless of the interests and needs of the person we are offering something to.
The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation describes giving (or dana) as an essential Buddhist practice that is about openness, generosity, and holding others with love and compassion. Giving can then come in many forms and equates to much more than the gift itself, which can be either tangible or intangible.
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
Mindfulness brought to gift giving can include mindfulness of:
Feeling overwhelmed? Check out our guide on mindful solutions to holiday stress.
Different Ways to Give
When considering what to gift to our loved ones this year, it is important to remember: there are many ways to give. We often assume that the best gifts are the ones we purchase. However, if we have ever received something intangible or homemade that was gifted from the heart, we know this assumption is not true. In fact, results of one study revealed that experiential gifts boosted the strength of relationships significantly more than material gifts.
Aside from purchasing a gift, you might consider the following mindful gift ideas:
1. Offering a Service
Are you great at giving massages? Would you love to babysit? Are you a chef? Can you offer an old friend some much needed quality time? One alternative to purchasing a product is to offer a service. Get creative with this, perhaps making a homemade gift certificate for use at a later date. You can also offer yourself in service to your community by volunteering where your hands, heart, and skills are needed most.
2. Exchanging Quality Time
Instead of exchanging either products or services, you might decide to share quality time with those you love. This year, quality time might look a bit different than it usually does. If you can’t meet in person, consider setting a shared virtual dinner. Additionally, you might share quality time by taking a long hike with loved ones or holding space for any difficulties this year has brought.
3. Getting Creative
Whether in the kitchen, in the studio, or in the workshop, you might decide to get creative this year: to handcraft a gift. Think homemade granola, soap bars, your best recipe, or a heartfelt photo album. If you’re not able to meet in person this year, you could send a recipe book to the receiver or a handwritten DIY guide in the mail.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
How to Give Mindfully: Step-by-Step
If you would like to give something this holiday season, whether to someone you love or to a stranger in need, there are a few steps you can take to root this offering in the heart.
1. Consider the receiver.
Hold your intended receiver in mind and heart. Whether this person is a relative or someone you would like to help out in your community, imagine what this person would most value right now. Often, we unconsciously give gifts that we ourselves would like to receive or that we assume they would like as well. Take your time to really consider: What would be meaningful for this person right now?
2. Notice if you hold any expectations.
The holidays come with all sorts of expectations. Notice if any are present for you in regards to gift giving. Do you feel that you have to spend a certain amount of money? Do you have preconceived notions of what a gift needs to look like? Bring mindful awareness to your thoughts and ideas about giving gifts during the holidays.
3. Set an intention.
You might also set an intention for the gift you will give. An intention can help to root yourself in the heart, opening up possibilities for previously unthought of mindful gift ideas. Your intention might be something like:
4. Consider the impact.
Furthermore, mindfulness can also extend to care and consideration for the impact that our gifts will have on the planet or community. For instance, you might consider the impact of purchasing a gift from a small business versus a large one. Additionally, you might bring the environment to your attention. What impact does a particular gift have on local or international ecosystems? In the words of Anna Lappe:
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
5. When in doubt: Keep it simple.
Above all, if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the idea of holiday gifting, come back to simplicity. You might even discuss with friends and family the possibility of not gifting anything tangible this year. Instead, you might simply share love, presence, and joy. Traditional gifts need not be mandatory.
Reduce holiday stress with our mindfulness worksheet.
10 Mindful Gift Ideas
From mindfulness gifts (those that actually inspire mindfulness) to gifts purchased with thoughtfulness and heart, here is a list of 10 mindful holiday gift ideas.
Gift yourself or a loved one with mindfulness meditation teacher training.