Giving a Priceless Gift



The gift-giving season is nearly upon us, forcing us to ask ourselves the annual question: How do we show the people we love how much they mean to us?

Why not give stuff?

We all have too much stuff. In fact, the amount of stuff we have may be causing us to feel more stress, instead of more content. While we have far more stuff than our recent ancestors, we are less benefited by our stuff. More than half of all Americans report feeling overwhelmed by clutter, and as of 2013 one in 10 Americans have a storage unit to hold stuff that can’t be stored in their home. While some consumable gifts can be fun—food gifts, art/ craft/hobby supplies, etc.—by and large, as a society we don’t need more stuff.

What to give? Time.

There are several upsides to giving experiences over giving material gifts:

Anticipating an activity provides more enjoyment than anticipating stuff. In multiple studies, people reported more happiness and excitement when waiting for an experience than in waiting to receive a thing.

Time together increases bonding. Quality time together is an important component of any relationship, for adults and kids alike.

Experiences give more joy after the event. People tend to get less happy with objects over time, and happier with experiences.

Decreased environmental impact. Spending time together, doing things together, generally have a far kinder impact on the environment, compared to buying and wrapping new gifts that need to also be disposed of after their use.

What does giving time look like?

Ready to make the transition? Here are a few ideas to get inspired:

Date night – Whether with a significant other, your kids, or your bestie, a specially designated date night/day can make loved ones feel loved. Make specific plans or a simple commitment to a special time. It can be a meal together, time at the park or zoo, camping out in the backyard or sleepover in the living room, to name a few.

A trip together – Traveling, whether a day trip, a weekend away, or for weeks at a time, is a great way to get out of the everyday habits and pay attention to time spent together. Drive to the beach for the morning; take the bus and explore an unknown part of the city; go for a hike in the woods.

Take a class together – Learning together can be a lot of fun, and a great opportunity to bond. Martial arts or dance, pottery or poetry, a new language or a new hobby, all are great ways to get out together on a regular basis. For parents and kids, learning a new activity or hobby together is a great opportunity for both parent and child.

Entertainment as a gift – Go to a show, see a movie, visit a museum, amusement park, or indoor trampoline park, go rock climbing together, paint pottery together, or go bowling or skating. The options are endless, depending on your shared interests. Not only is time spent together, but the shared experience can be talked about afterwards.

Join a hobby – Does your spouse garden? Do your kids take martial arts? Does your best friend paint? Sometimes joining a hobby that loved ones enjoy can increase understanding and create something to talk about. Plus, many people enjoy teaching what they love.

Long-distance gift-giving – If physically spending time together isn’t feasible due to distance, there are still ways to send the gift of an experience through museum memberships, classes, a book that can be talked about, a photo treasure hunt challenge, or a gift certificate to a massage or a restaurant, to name a few ideas.

Giving, showing our loved ones we are thinking deeply about them, is a natural need for the social creatures that humans are. Fulfill this need creatively for a more meaningful and long-lasting gift.

Kerry Kokkinogenis is an instructor at the Boston Martial Arts Center located at 161 Harvard Ave., #4E, Boston. For more information, visit BostonMartialArts.com.

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