Take a moment right now to recall the giddy anticipation you feel as someone unwraps something you’ve selected just for her. Nothing matches the joy you feel when, in that moment of recognition, her face lights up. It is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the greatest psychological benefits from exchanging gifts. Here are some creative ideas to inspire you during this, the season of giving.
Go beyond materialism.
1. No one needs another tchotchke, nor does she relish random gadgets, selected because she doesn’t yet possess them. Consumables don’t collect dust. Know your friend’s favorite spot for a meal? Swing by and grab a gift certificate.
2. Or, better yet, when you know she’s feeling frazzled, drop off dinner—and wine!—with notice (and make sure to leave the car running).
3. Prepare a “Family Movie Night” basket that includes a DVD, popcorn, and movie-theater favorites such as Milk Duds.
4. Give a gift that lasts for a year of rainy days—a museum membership. (Check here for local venues.)
5. Know of a cause your friend supports? Give a charitable donation in her name.
6. Simply set a date to share a favorite activity: mani-pedis or a meet-up at that free library event. Offer a ride, even.
7. Want a lasting sentiment? Give something that’s embroidered or engraved. A tiny trinket, when personalized, will mean the world to someone.
8. Or etch your sentiment in the heavens, figuratively, by naming a star in the international registry
Pass along your favorite book, and other thoughtful ideas—>
It’s the thought that counts.
9. Make a mental note when your friend mentions something she delights in, and pass by the bookstore discount tables to grab a coffee-table book on the topic.
10. When you share a common interest, remain on the lookout for items that affirm that bond, from fair-trade coffee to fearless hot sauce.
11. Relive your teen years by burning a CD, whether it’s a playlist for your high-school BFF or several episodes of a podcast you know your neighbor would enjoy.
12. Give a piece of yourself to a devout reader by passing along your favorite book (the rattier, the better). Ask the recipient to discern particular paragraphs or phrases that elicited your dog-ears.
13. For that mommy mensch, layer a mason jar with cookie ingredients: flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, etc. Include a recipe penned in your own best handwriting, of course.
14. Fancy yourself a budding pastry chef with that peach cobbler? Set a night to make extras and hand out judiciously.
15. Don’t forget that exploring gift customs within various cultures could be an excellent guide to exploring ideas you might not think of otherwise. Your friend Google can help here. Be sure to reference the specific tradition that inspired you, else those nesting dolls might seem random.
Take pen (or paint) to paper.
16. In the age of 140-character Tweets, who doesn’t miss receiving mail that is not a bill? It can be a funny card you ran across in the drugstore or a sentiment penned on stationery. A simple “Hey, just thought it’d be fun to receive a note in the actual mail. Love ya!” is enough to brighten anyone’s day.
17. Write out a favorite quote or poem that reminds you of someone and frame it. Said frame doesn’t have to be store-bought; collect four sticks, secure them together with string, and attach your artwork—Voila!
18. Think of anything your friend needs help with—organizing that closet, lining her cabinets—and create a “gift certificate” for her to redeem. Whatever you have on hand suffices, whether it’s charcoals on sketch paper or oils on canvas. Or ink it on the back of an envelope for a for a good LOL.
Ways you can be of service to others—>
Be of service.
19. Volunteer your time—plant mums at the park with your neighborhood association or stuff envelopes for the PTA. Offer up an hour or an afternoon, whatever you can.
20. Share a special talent with your neighbor, whether she needs to produce a brochure and you’re a graphic designer by trade or she wants to write a letter to her congressman and you’re a published author. (Friendly note: tread lightly here. Offer up your skillset if you’re reasonably certain it will be received well, and be gracious if said offer is rebuffed.)
21. Suggest a date night for your sister and offer to watch the kids by giving her a babysitting certificate you’ve fashioned out of your supply of construction paper and washable markers. (See #19 above.)
22. Offer to help with others’ household projects and chores: everything from rolling up your sleeves and rolling out the kitchen walls to carrying in your neighbor’s cans on recycling day.
23. Go to Kickstarter and search out a campaign you think is awesome. Give a buck or two if you can and be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook.
24. When in doubt, remember that a hug is always a great gift. Show your mom that you mean it!
Don't forget yourself—>
Don’t forget yourself.
25. Awake each morning with one thought of gratitude. Write it out and post it to the fridge to be seen every time you grab a juice box or Gogurt. Add something each day, and at the end of the month you’ll have gone a long way toward allowing positive, grateful thoughts to guide your thoughts and actions.
26. Make time for a 20-minute bath. Yes it seems like a luxury, but force yourself to lock the door, turn on the water, and add bubbles. Don’t underestimate the magical effects of water and your own private time.
27. Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe. Yes, just breathe. In deeply for four seconds, hold it for eight, exhale for seven; slow, concentrated, and heavy for several reps. Then you can go back to dealing with that temper tantrum in the corner.
28. Have a bunch of late risers in your home? Claim the crack of dawn as your time and enjoy the quiet with a cup of your favorite tea.
29. Splurge in the checkout lane every once in a while and get that gossip magazine and king-sized candy bar.
30. When all else fails, leave the house—alone, sans diaper bag. Simply say to your partner, “You do the dishes; I’m heading out for a stroll around the block.”