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The perfect Christmas present


The Story

It's that time of year again. Ever heard things like this? "He wants one of these but it costs £90", or "Will they think that's enough? It looks less than they'll spend on me" or "I've got to get something for her..." as you try to convince yourself that they really do need a set of silver-plated sport-themed bottle stoppers, or another set of placemats.

The fact is that for most of us in the UK, even in a recession, there's very little that we actually need. There are many things we may want, or that the myriad of clever advertising has convinced us we want (which, incidentally, is very difficult to get away from – check out this link). But to what extent are we buying things for the sake of buying things because we feel we should?

The thinking

I'm not going to preach, as some people do at this time of year, that we all get rid of presents and give all our money to charity – it's sadly an unrealistic ideal (because it's too different from tradition). Most of us like giving gifts, and receiving them, to people we care about. What can we do though to get more real happiness and less stress out of the gift-giving 'charade'?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Only buy one gift. How about a 'secret santa' amongst family or friends? It reduces costs, and means that each person can ask for one thing that they really have their heart set on. Nothing ends up in a drawer (or worse, re-gifted). No more worries of whether they'll like it – you know they'll spend time appreciating it. And gratitude is very good for us; having been shown to improve pretty much every aspect of wellbeing (e.g. see here).

2. Give to someone who really needs something. Just think of 'Mr. A. Charity' as another person on your Christmas list, and buy them a gift too. £15 to CentrePoint for example, will buy a homeless teenager a meal and a bed on Christmas Eve; something most of us will be taking for granted. We may not see them open this gift, but there's no doubting it's worthwhile.

3. Say thank you. And mean it. Not only does your experience of being grateful improve your own wellbeing, it has impact on the receiver too. Research shows that when someone feels appreciated they are much more likely to repeat the behaviour in future1. They also increase effort into the task (useful to know for managers and mums alike).

4. Give an experience. Even better, one to share with you. It builds your relationship and gives you something to savour and remember together. Research on savouring shows that focusing on pleasure in life improves well-being, reduces depression and increases optimism. Check out a great book on the impact of savouring here.

I'd love to know if you put any of these into practice and how it makes you feel – plus any other ideas you have of cultivating a really happy Christmas.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful time, and savour every minute.


1 Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., & McCulloch, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in practice and the practice of gratitude. In Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (Eds.) Positive Psychology in Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Well being


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