The season of giving is back! Things are Christmassy red and sprinkled with glitter everywhere around, the bells are ringing merrily, and you’re still standing overwhelmed without any idea as to where to begin? Yes, gift-giving can make us frustrated, tired and worn out (both emotionally and financially), but unfortunately, it’s us who’ve made it all that hard. Once it stopped being an opportunity to show our love, devotion and respect, gift-giving sadly became a mere barter.
But, there’s still time to turn that around and make it different this year! Giving for the pleasure of giving can make you a happier and healthier person, as psychologists claim, and those of us who’ve tried it will agree. Here’s where the trick is.
Long before kids start taking toys from their siblings and refusing to give them back, toddlers offer their pacifiers, squashes and rattles to whomever is closest. When you and your wife were still two smitten souls with separate lives and bank accounts, even a petunia stolen from somebody’s garden was the most romantic gift in the world. Opinions on whether human beings are selfish by their nature or not vary even from one scientist to another, but even if we are naturally inclined to taking without giving, it’s not something that makes us feel good.
It might be, quite contrary, that altruism has deeper roots in human nature – our impulse to cooperate rather than to compete is perfectly understandable from the survival point of view, after all. Besides, what’s true here really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we strive towards benevolence without any gratification.
Just think about it for a moment! You’ve certainly been in a situation in which you’ve been given more than you believe you’ve deserved. Did it make you all blushed and uncomfortable? Probably yes.
Finding joy in one’s generosity rather than in others’ kindness is a sign of emotional stability, even in case that kindness is well deserved. And, in terms of gift-giving, watching somebody’s excited expectancy turning into an outpour of genuine exuberance and gratitude always beats the emotions of thankfulness we feel when the table is turned. In both cases, however, the purpose is the same – giving or receiving something that makes us feel loved.
Secret Santa invitations are already out, and the time for discussing the psychology of gift-giving is only coincidentally suitable. Still, surprising a person we hold dear with something lovely is not something we should do in special occasions only. After all, presents are so much more than shiny wrappers and bowties.
If you want to feel the pure joy of gift-giving, you should try making a habit of it. Start thinking about all those around you who deserve to be cared for, and make a list of what they are in need of. For some, that will be a practical thing – a yoga mat for your unhappily chubby friend or a seat cushion for your dad’s sour back.
For others, it will mean something special – a rose for your wife (because she made you bloom), a box of tea for your auntie (because she makes you feel warm), or even a beach rock for your first neighbour (because he’s your rock in the time of need). It’s all so tiny, symbolic and unforgettable.
Of course, being selfless is not the same as being self-denying. Benevolence, like altruism itself, has a straight outward direction, but is only one part of a healthy whole. In order to find happiness in making others happy, one has to find happiness within oneself first.
That’s why your gift list should always include your own name as well. Never feel too modest to forget about your own little pleasures! Every once in awhile, especially if you work hard for both yourself and others, go out and indulge yourself with something you heart desires, whether it’s something you actually need or not.
And, remember – gift-giving should never be about how much money you spend. Nothing pretty comes without a cost, as we tend to discover time and time again, but that still doesn’t mean that you should actually buy the gift. With some imagination and a pair of crafty hands, almost everything from the rack can be homemade!