40 Mindful and Meaningful Gift Ideas


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:

Family Gifts

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.

Spiritual Gifts

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.

Healthy Gifts

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.

Learning Gifts

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

Self-Improvement Gifts

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.

Practical Gifts

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.

32. Basic Toolkit. Here's a great one for women and one for men. This is perfect for someone moving into their first home.

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.

Beautiful Gifts

For those who appreciate the beauty in life, here are some great gift ideas.

36. Flowers and Herbs. Give an amaryllis kit or an herb garden.

37. An Outing for Beauty. Take someone to the Botanical Gardens, an art museum, a ballet, or to hear the symphony.

38. A CD of Beautiful Music. I absolutely love The Brandenburg Concertos
and Celtic Women.

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.

Comments

  1. Disgusted by black Friday shoppers? No, it’s a tradition to spend time with my sisters and nieces in that morning. We laugh, we talk, and make great memories. And I see lots of other families doing the same thing. Is some of it out of control, sure, I’ll agree with that. I’m not advocating buying unneeded stuff or materialism. And if the specialness of getting up in the wee hours to have some fun is not for you then don’t do it. But don’t think for everyone that it’s all about stuff. Disgusted at black Friday? No, I love the time with my family and I see nothing wring with it. Sorry, don’t meant to be harsh, but your intro to this article felt so judgmental and I thought you might benefit from another perspective

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi JM,
      Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. It sounds like Black Friday is a really fun and special time for you and your family. I wasn’t attempting to judge the event itself but mostly the attitudes and behaviors of those who put such an emphasis on material things that they are willing to run over others to get their stuff. That said, I’m not happy with the way retailers have manipulated us into leaving another lovely holiday time (Thanksgiving) to be with family in order to line their pockets. But that’s just me. I like to shop too, but I don’t like to fight crowds or be tempted to purchase something I don’t need just because the price is low.

  2. Hi Barrie,
    Thanks for the thoughtful article. We do sometimes get lost in the glitz, glitter and gimme. I enjoyed reading your list of ideas and thought I would share our holiday giving.

    This year our family challenged one another to locate a “giving tree” where the wishes of those less fortunate are placed with the hopes that one small item might come to them this season. In my case I found gift wishes at my place of worship. People’s gift wishes were on little paper ornaments and stars. For example, “Stationary, colored pens and pencils for a woman”. Pretty easy to find, affordable, and adorable that someone requested paper and pen. Wow!

    Each person in our family picks out one or two people to fill their holiday gift wish (I did three this year because I just couldn’t make up my mind between two of them!). Once having purchased the item(s), wrapped them and returned the gift to the collection location with the appropriate tag, we write a note to each family member telling them of the gift that fulfilled someone’s true gift wish. We include a little statement of blessing for the person and thank our family member for participating in this lovely opportunity to provide happiness to a complete stranger.

    You can find giving tree requests at a church, mosque, tabernacle, school, mission, fire department, on and on. You don’t have to look far.

    I look forward to hearing other people’s ideas and comments,

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Cherie,
      I love the giving tree idea! What a lovely thing to do with your family. I’m sure you get as much pleasure (or more) from that activity than from any physical gift you receive. 🙂

  3. Thank you Barrie once again for the thought that you put into your posts.
    be good to yourself
    David

  4. Barrie, you are one of the most practical people I know, and these gift ideas are priceless! A post to be bookmarked and shared.

    I had a client teach me about the difference between gifts and presents. Gifts are about the person you are giving too. And, presents are about the one presenting/giving.

    I like to give gifts, especially if I’ve made them. I’ve made a CD for my daughter of her favorite songs, and I can’t wait for her to open it. I make a lot of photo gifts, collage, and photo calendars. My family is really good at being thoughtful in their gift giving, so I am blessed to pass this on to my children. My daughter (age 7) has made gifts, card, and even her own gift wrap this year!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Marci,
      I love that distinction between gifts and presents — I’ve not heard that before. So true. How lovely that your daughter makes her own gifts and wrapping paper. You are teaching her good things! I’d love to know what your 7-year-olds favorite songs are. 🙂

      • They are actually songs that i listen to that she ends up liking. Half are uplifting songs and the other half are dance songs. I call it her “Being Brave” Mix. We watch a lot of American Idol shows, so among her many interests she now wants to be a singer, writer, and paleontologist! It will be fun to watch her grow and see where she really ends up.

        She likes Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana of course! But on her CD are: Born this Way by Lady Gaga, Firework by Katy Perry, Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli, Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars, Waiting Outside the Lines by Grayson Chance, etc…

  5. sometimes i think, what people want most as a “gift”, is simply a big bear hug and “i love you”!
    noch 🙂

  6. I believe that several of your “gifts” have the potential for hurt feelings, and would be very cautious giving items to people for them to “better” themselves. My mother in law, with whom I have a lovely relationship, gave me a pedometer and hand weight set for Christmas one year – two months after I had my second baby. I found it very impersonal and insulting, a suggestion that I needed to lose weight. True though that may be, I don’t think “I think you’re fat” is a sentiment you want a gift recipient to feel. Similarly, many of your gift ideas give the impression that you feel the recipient needs to make improvements in their life. I’m certain that was not your intention, which is why I thought I might point it out. Happy Holidays!

  7. Love this list. I found a unique gift for my daughter under the Fair Trade/Handmade Gifts.
    I’d like to add that illustrated books of poetry make wonderful, long lasting gifts for children.