Gift Ideas Holidays Science of Giving

Alleviate Stress with Healthy Gift-Giving Expectations This Holiday Season | Science of Giving Series #7

wrapped gifts under a tree

Each holiday season, life gets a little crazier. Lights are hung on street poles, calendars start filling up, travel plans are made, and everyone starts eating a few more cookies than usual.
The holidays are here!
But while the season is often marked with joy and excitement, for many it is a time of stress, anxiety, and even an increased risk of depression. It’s important to be mindful of these struggles and manage our own mental health during the holiday season.

Many things can contribute to a dip in mental health during this otherwise festive time of year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, contributing factors are the financial stress of gift-giving and travel, the busyness of too many plans and parties, and loneliness from not being able to be with family. Of course, these factors are layered on top of Seasonal Affective Disorder that weighs heavily on many. (Darkness at 5 p.m.? No thanks!)

Give Meaningful, Charitable Gifts to Benefit Your Health

man and woman smiling at a computer in front of a Christmas tree

Giving gifts out of obligation or expectation can lead to negative outcomes, like financial and relational burdens and stress.

However, gift giving does not have to be this way! In fact, gift giving can be a mentally healthy experience when executed in a meaningful way. If done thoughtfully, it can even add to the quality of your holiday season instead of making it more draining.

Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Science has found this to be true in areas of volunteerism and charitable giving. So, this year, consider a gift of charity as part of your holiday plans, rather than giving “stuff.”

One 2006 study (Jorge Moll, et al.) found that charitable giving, specifically, triggers positive reinforcement in two areas of the brain — one that involves monetary rewards, and the other that plays a key role in social attachment. The first means that giving a meaningful, charitable gift can produce positive reactions in your own brain. The second is compatible with the “warm glow” effect, which is the rewarding feeling associated with pleasure and connection with others that’s experienced when giving and sharing.

So, how are some ways you can manifest charitable giving this holiday season? You likely want your gift giving to be quick and easy, have meaning, and be something you can feel good about. Consider giving a TisBest Charity Gift Card to your loved ones this season. With an easy, 3-step online giving process, you’ll find a meaningful gift experience that will contribute to positive mental health for both yourself and the recipient.

Ideas to Set Healthy Gift-Giving Expectations

In addition to giving a charitable gift like a TisBest Charity Gift Card, you can also set expectations for gift giving that alleviate both the stress of errands and shopping, and the financial burden of the purchases.
While NAMI has several suggestions for managing your mental health during this season, below are some helpful hints specific to gift giving.

Organize a Family Secret-Santa Exchange

woman holding a gift

It seems that year after year, families grow. If you think of your own family, there are likely more members around the tree than there were a decade ago.
With that often comes the expectation to buy gifts for more family members. It may even come to the point where it’s financially irresponsible to buy a gift for each and every family member. That’s when it’s a great idea to consider a family secret Santa exchange!
First, decide the age limit for the exchange. For example, you may decide it’s best to include all family members age 16 and older in the exchange, as the younger ones may not be ready to receive only one gift yet. (Let them be spoiled for a few more years!)
Next, use this easy Name Drawing generator to organize the drawing amongst the adults. Be sure to communicate a dollar amount expectation for the gifts, such as $25 or $50, or whatever is comfortable for your family.
In addition to alleviating the financial burden of buying many gifts, this also allows each family member to be more intentional about choosing the gift for the name they have drawn. Plus, it’s so fun to surprise each other and find out who had whose name!

Want, Need, Wear, Read — Gifts for Kids

mother with two children sitting on the couch

How about the kiddos? How do you set healthy expectations for gifts without ruining the childhood magic of the season?
Your kids likely have a long wish list, including everything from the newest smartphone to a real, live pony. So, to keep things realistic, consider following this gift-giving mantra:
Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.
With these expectations, maybe then you can splurge on one larger ticket item they want, and responsibly purchase three more gifts according to this fun rhyme!
Of course, we’d add on one thing to the popular rhyme — something to give. This is a great way to allow your kids to enjoy holiday gift-giving and teach them about generosity.

Learn More About Rethinking Gift-Giving

At TisBest, we offer a different kind of gift-giving experience for adults, children, and businesses.
With a TisBest Charity Gift Card, your recipient spends the money on the gift card by donating to a charity of their choice. This is an easy way to incorporate generosity, meaning, and alleviate stress this holiday season.
Learn How TisBest Charity Gift Cards Work