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10 Tips for Mindful Gift-Giving (+10 Great Ideas)

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to the “list.” Gift list, that is. As fall turns to winter, so begins the tradition of picking out presents for the people in our lives.

Sometimes gift-giving is joyful; an opportunity to be creative and choose gifts that express our affection for our loved ones. Other times it can feel like a chore; an obligation to just buy something, and adding to the unnecessary accumulation of stuff in our already-cluttered lives.


During the holiday season, it can feel like a bit of both. We may like the idea of showing our love and appreciation through thoughtful gifts, but the pressure we put on ourselves to get just the right thing or to spend a certain amount of money can turn it into something that doesn’t hold meaning for us or represent our values. Even worse is when we know that our mindless gift won’t really mean anything to the recipient, either.

Why Do We Give Gifts?

The roots of holiday gift-giving are found in the Christian homage to the three magi bringing gifts to the newborn Jesus. It was also common in ancient pagan traditions to exchange small presents during winter solstice festivals heralding the return of the sun.

Under the best circumstances, gifts are a way to tell those who are important to us, “I’m so glad you’re in my life.”  With this intention, they serve to strengthen our connection with the people around us.

And when a gift is heartfelt, the receiver knows—it touches them in a very real way.

Gift-giving can also be as uplifting for the giver as it is for the recipient, triggering a release of feel-good hormones and bolstering our relationship. Honestly, is there anything better than witnessing the surprise and delight someone you care for feels when they receive a present from you they truly love?

The Problem with the Whole Gift-Giving Thing

The problem with our modern experience of gift-giving at the holidays is that it has become inextricably tied to commercialism. Instead of a joyful act or a loving gesture, it can feel like a mindless obligation to just buy more stuff.

And despite our best intentions, it’s easy to get sucked in. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself: You put off making your “list,” conflicted by what the holidays have become, only to realize you’ve run out of time to do something more meaningful, and resign yourself to the chore, joylessly powershopping at the mall or on Amazon and crossing off names as you go.

It doesn’t really warm the heart, does it?

Gifts are a way to tell those who are important to us, “I’m so glad you’re in my life.”

How to Give Thoughtful, Meaningful Gifts with Mindful Gifting

Despite the cultural push to Buy, Buy, Buy!, it is possible to sidestep the consumer frenzy and tune into something more meaningful to express your appreciation for your friends and family with mindful gift-giving this holiday season.

First, Explore Your Values

Probably the best way to bring more mindfulness into holiday gifts is to clarify your own values and feelings about the tradition and then craft a response aligned with both.  Not only will this make the season more meaningful and fun for you, those who receive your gifts will feel the difference.

Some questions to consider:

  1. What does the holiday season mean to you?
  2. What are some of the ways that you feel loved and appreciated?
  3. What messages do you hope to convey to your family and friends this time of year?
  4. How do you show your love and appreciation for people at other times, not just at the holidays?
  5. What are your values when it comes to material goods? For example, do you avoid plastic, respect high quality, and prefer free, homemade items to store-bought?

I see you
I appreciate you
I respect you
You make me laugh
You make me feel safe
Thank you

Now, firmly centered in your values, can you think of some ways to share your appreciation for the people in your life?

Support Their Joy

Instead of just shopping for an item you think someone might like, consider the kinds of experiences that bring them joy.

  • If a green-thumb friend has talked about wanting to expand her garden, how about a gift coupon for a weekend of help digging in the dirt, complete with a pack of seeds?
  • For a child or an adult interested in the cosmos: Find upcoming meteor shower dates, and invite them to a special outing with a local astronomy group or plan a viewing party on your own.

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Gift It Now

Keep a Stock of Meaningful Gifts

Craft fairs, open studios, and stores that sell locally-made goods are great places to find unique, handmade gifts. Throughout the year, pick up small gift items that catch your eye, even if you don’t have a recipient in mind.

The same goes for items you’ve found for yourself. Chances are that if it delights and inspires you, someone in your circle will appreciate it as well. 

  • Favorite teas or exotic chocolate
  • Kitchen gadgets you can’t live without
  • A book of poetry or essays that inspire you

Thoughts Count

When most of our communication happens in text or Likes, we don’t get the chance to tell the people in our lives how much we appreciate them. A handwritten letter expressing what someone means to you can deeply touch two hearts. Pair it with a framed photo of the two of you together.

Experiences Count, too

The perfect present may be a shared experience: tickets to a special film or exhibit you’d both enjoy, an invitation to see a holiday-lights display, a destination hike or picnic. Not only will you give the recipient something to look forward to, you’ll be building new memories together.

Something Old, Something New

If the idea of feeding the consumer maw turns you off, consider making something new out of something old. Pass along something you own, freshened up for new use. Flea markets, estate sales, and consignment stores can all be great places to find good-quality items in need of a new home—and that set of period cookie cutters or the special-edition book might be just the right thing for someone in your life.

Set Parameters

Based on your values and your inspirations for the season, create parameters for more mindful gift-giving. For example, if supporting local businesses is important to you, only purchase gifts locally. If charitable giving feels like a better use of your money, make a donation in someone’s name, or consider gift offerings through non-profit organizations that use the proceeds for their operations.

Free Gifts Can Be Just as Meaningful

We’ve become conditioned to believe that you need to spend money for a gift. Free gifts can be as meaningful, if not more, when it comes to mindful gift-giving. It’s truly the intention that counts.

  • Homemade baked goods
  • A themed playlist of favorite songs
  • A favorite plant clipping in a recycled glass jar, along with care instructions

Share Your Abundance

We all have things to share that we probably don’t even realize. Look around your life and the activities you do. Is there an opportunity to extend your good fortune to someone else?

Think:

  • Frequent-flyer miles
  • Museum guest passes
  • A weekend at your summer place/ski condo
  • Tickets to the symphony or a ball game from a seasonal membershi

Support Their Health and Well-Being

If mindfulness has helped you, how about sharing that experience with someone else? Subscriptions to meditation apps or a course, could be inspirational for someone you love.

  • Invite them to a beginner’s yoga class
  • Create a booklet of your favorite smoothie or non-alcoholic drink recipes
  • Sign up for a healthy-cooking class to attend together, or start a weekly vegetarian dinner swap

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Mindful Gift-Giving for Kids

It’s true that children love presents—it’s terribly exciting to see a package with your name on it!  But when you think back on your most beloved holiday traditions, it’s rarely a specific present that stands out; you remember experiences. Anyone with children also knows that too many presents just overwhelm kids and rarely provides happiness beyond the thrill of ripping off the wrapping paper.

Why not use this holiday season as a time to focus on creating new traditions and memories, and make the gift-part the side note?

  • Learn to make tamales together and host a feast, or wrap and freeze to give to friends and family
  • Light a good wishes candle each night of the season, sending good thoughts to someone in need
  • Adopt a family to provide for this holiday, and let your kids help pick out the gifts
  • Use the 4 Gift Rule to guide your shopping, giving item from each category: want, need, wear, read

Break the Tradition—and Start a New One

Getting together with friends is perhaps the best way to spread good cheer without focusing on gifts. But instead of a traditional holiday party with all its excess—food, drink, sugar, small talk—why not create a new tradition, one that feels more aligned with what the holiday season means to you?

  • Arrange a group volunteer project
  • Host a solstice event
  • “Adopt” local families to support through the holidays, and host a wrapping party

The perfect gift for the one who’s given you so much.

Whether she’s your mom, your sister, your friend — she’s the one who has your back. Who knows you best. Who loves you no matter what.

Show her how much she means to you with a year of mindfulness for both of you: more calm, less stress, better sleep, deeper joy.

Treat someone you love to a lifetime subscription for only $249 (normally $399) or 12 months for just $27.99 (normally $69.99)

The perfect gift for the one who’s given you so much.

Whether she’s your mom, your sister, your friend — she’s the one who has your back. Who knows you best. Who loves you no matter what.

Show her how much she means to you with a year of mindfulness for both of you: more calm, less stress, better sleep, deeper joy.

Treat someone you love to a lifetime subscription for only $249 (normally $399) or 12 months for just $27.99 (normally $69.99)

10 Meaningful Gift Ideas to Spread Some Love This Holiday Season

A special invitation for a seasonal outing

A heartfelt letter expressing your appreciation

An offer to help with a project in someone’s life

Sharing tickets for the zoo or from a theater or museum membership

A collection of favorite herbal teas or other warming winter beverages

A free, homemade booklet of favorite recipes or sheet music

Gifts purchased through a Fair Trade or social-benefit program

A batch of “healthy” cookies (or frozen dough balls for the recipient to bake at a later date!)

Start a new holiday tradition where doing for others is the shared gift

A subscription to a meditation app or mindfulness course

Live a Mindful Life

Enjoy these articles, stories, and guided practices for incorporating mindfulness into every day.

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Mindfulness together increases calm, expands gratitude, and strengthens connection.

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Give your dear one a year of less stress, more calm, and better sleep.

When life gets crazy, mindfulness is a way to stay grounded, feel connected, and increase joy. And it’s even better with a loved one.

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