Sometimes the images of Black Friday shoppers, scrambling over each other in the wee hours of the morning to purchase holiday gifts, makes me wonder if the tradition of gift-giving has lost some of it’s purpose.
Perhaps there are some deals that merit the time, energy, and madness involved in shopping on that day, and maybe the Black Friday outing is a happy tradition for many people.
However, the over-the-top shopping frenzy and inundation of steals and deals that land in our in-boxes and mailboxes (almost as soon as Halloween ends) are undermining what should be a relaxed time of mindful and joyful giving and shared experiences.
I read a post on the blog Zen Habits about a “No New Gifts Holiday Challenge.” In other words, try not to buy any material things for the holidays and just enjoy the season or give hand-made gifts. But gift-giving can be part of the joy in the season, especially if there is a shift from mindless spending to practicing mindfulness in giving.
We each have our own ideas and attitudes about giving gifts and the types of gifts we give. For me, an operative guide is intention — what is the intention behind the gift I am giving? Beyond bringing momentary pleasure, will my gift offer something more substantial for longer term growth, happiness, or usefulness?
Here is a list of 40 mindful and meaningful gift ideas:
These are gifts that you can offer your entire family to help bring you together for fun and great memories.
1. Games. In this age of electronics that pull us into our individual corners, coming together for a family game is old-fashioned fun that is underrated. Our family loves the game The Settlers of Catan.
2. Traditions. We have a tradition of allowing the children to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and it’s always new pajamas to wear that night. This is something that my three teenagers still look forward to and expect. We always take photos of them in their new PJ’s.
3. Movies. There are several movies we love to watch at Christmas, and one we gave to our kids many years ago is a family favorite — A Christmas Story . We also love to go to the movies together during the holiday break.
4. Family Calendar and Photos. This is a great gift for grandparents or family members you don’t see regularly. You can create a calendar with personal photos for every month at Shutterfly. Also, the digital picture frames that rotate hundreds of photos are really nice but more expensive.
5. A Trip or Excursion. Experiential gifts stay in our memories forever, and a wonderful trip or weekend getaway is one of the best family gifts I can imagine.
These are gifts for those who have a meaningful and active spiritual life.
6. Prayer/Meditation Beads. For someone who practices prayer or meditation, beads have the most beautiful tradition behind them, and you can find some stunning hand-made meditation beads on Etsy. You can make the beads if you want to make it really personal.
7. Journals. You can also find beautiful hand-made meditation journals on Etsy, as well as dozens of styles on Amazon. Maybe wrap a beautiful pen and a candle to go with the journal.
8. Wind Chimes. I love the sound of wind chimes — it is meditative and spiritual to me. I love this stunning Recycled Wine Bottle Glass Windchime on Driftwood.
9. Inspirational Books. I have so many favorite inspirational books. I love The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle and The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
10. Meditation or Yoga Classes. For someone who wants to learn or sustain a meditation or yoga practice, give them a gift certificate for a few local classes.
These are gifts for health-conscious family and friends.
11. A Juicer. I have really gotten into juicing this year and have discovered so many health benefits from it. I use the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain 700-Watt Juice Extractor.
12. Fresh Fruit. You can create your own gift basket of fresh fruit or send someone a Fruit of the Month gift. Delicious and healthy.
13. A Session with a Personal Trainer. Learning the proper technique and routine for weight lifting and aerobic exercise was invaluable fore me. I learn this through working with a personal trainer. One session is a good way to kick-start an exercise program.
14. A Pedometer and Calorie Counter. This is a great way for anyone to track how much they’re moving and how many calories they are burning. Check out this pedometer.
15. A Massage. Create a “coupon book” of massages you will provide yourself or buy a gift certificate for a professional massage. This is my all-time favorite gift!
Service Oriented Gifts
Here are some gifts for making a difference during the holiday season.
16. Cooking or Baking. Prepare a homemade meal or baked goods to give as a gifts. I have a tradition of giving homemade pumpkin bread to friends and family. It’s great for Christmas morning!
17. Adopt a Family. For many years, we have provided gifts and food for a family who can’t afford to have much at Christmas. Our kids always resisted delivering the goods, but then found it extremely moving once they arrived and saw the reaction of the children.
18. Hand-Made, Fair Trade Gifts. Check out gifts made by third world artisans and farmers and help sustain their businesses and end poverty. Check out the beautiful gifts here.
19. Unicef Inspired Gifts. Give the gift of life and health to children in need around the world. Unicef has many gifts to help children in need, and you can dedicate your gift to a loved one.
20. Create Something. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Sew something. Make a handmade ornament. Write a love letter. Create something from scratch with you own hands and heart.
These are gifts for those who have a love of learning.
21. Foreign Language Course. If you know someone who is traveling or who loves to learn, give them a course in their language of choice. Check out The Omniglot blog for everything under the sun about language learning and the best courses.
22. Show Me How. This is a great reference book showing step-by-step procedures on how to do hundreds of useful, practical, and strange tasks.
23. A Class or Course for a Hobby. Offer enrollment in a class or course for a loved one’s special interest. Or enroll with your spouse or a friend for a fun class together.
24. Book an Educational Trip. Take a trip that involves learning opportunities and cultural tours. Check out Road Scholars and Smithsonian Travel.
25. Give a Book. One of the best ways to learn I know of! I hope you’ll consider giving one of my books. You can find them here: Barrie’s Books
Those who enjoy and seek self-improvement and personal growth might like these.
26. Find Your Passion, Get Confident, Learn New Habits. Shameless plug for my courses here — but if you know someone trying to improve themselves, these courses are a great way to start the New Year. Check out the Path to Passion, Sticky Habits, Simple Self-Confidence, and Emotional Abuse Breakthrough.
27. Write Your Book. If you or someone you love has always wanted to write and publish a book, check out this program that teaches everything from building a writing habit to marketing your book.
28. Financial Awareness. For a young person, newly married couple, or someone struggling with money management, one of my favorite resources is Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.
29. Podcasts. Go on the iTunes store and find some podcasts that match the learning interests of your recipient. Download a collection to give as a thoughtful gift.
30. Free Personal Development Gifts. Check out these freebies that you can download and give as gifts and stocking stuffers.
These are gifts that can always be used and appreciated.
31. Car Emergency Kit. No one buys an emergency kit for themselves. It’s a great gift for anyone, particularly a new or young driver. It could save a life.
33. Toothbrush Sanitizer. I remember when this first came out, and I thought it was brilliant. The darn toothbrush goes in your mouth, so it should be sanitized, right? Take a look.
34. Toiletries Gift Basket. Create your own gift basket of favorite shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, shaving cream, etc. Or stuff these in a stocking.
35. Meal Gift Basket. Purchase the pantry items needed to create a delicious meal and include your favorite recipe.
For those who appreciate the beauty in life, here are some great gift ideas.
37. An Outing for Beauty. Take someone to the Botanical Gardens, an art museum, a ballet, or to hear the symphony.
39. A Book of Poetry. For someone who loves the beauty of words, Mary Oliver, Rumi, and Kahlil Gibran are three of the most moving and beautiful poets I’ve read.
40. Handmade Christmas Tree Ornament. Create a beautiful work of art for someone’s Christmas tree or find handmade ornaments on Etsy.
If you have any mindful gift giving ideas. I hope you will share them with us in the comments. Please note that some of these links are affiliate links for which I will get a small commission if you purchase. That will be a very mindful gift from you for which I am profoundly grateful.