It’s the most wonderful (stressful) time of the year! If you’ve managed to put up lights, and candles, bake treats, and attend awkward holiday parties with no ER trips or divorce you’re doing pretty great! Now comes the often emotionally charged adventure of finding gifts for the people in your life. If you’re anything like me one of the greatest joys of this season is watching people’s faces light up when they open the carefully wrapped ever-so-thoughtful gift you’ve picked specifically for them. In fact, all year my family waits for the “Maggie Card” on their birthday, promising tear-jerking heartfelt words. I am a words-of-affirmation kinda gal myself. But when you’re known for giving meaningful gifts the lead-up to the holidays can be hard. Gift cards just won’t cut it. Have no fear! I’m here to offer a list of therapist-approved, meaningful, holiday gifts to check off your to-dos and hopefully achieve that overjoyed smile during any gift exchange.
This is a super cost-effective gift for anyone, but especially if you know someone that is too hard on themselves. Head over to a thrift store or dollar store and pick up the aesthetic container of your choosing then just fill it up with kind things about your gift receiver. These could be your favorite characteristics of them, cherished memories, or even inspirational quotes – just something to grab out of on a hard day to remember they are loved. I gave this to my dad many moons ago for some holiday and he has regularly requested refills of new affirmations.
This was a gift my partner gave me one year, and it is to this day one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received. On a piece of poster board collect photos of your gift receiver with their various loved ones, then asked those loved ones for brief quotes about the gift receiver. Put the quotes with the photos and voila! A meaningful (and cheap) gift sure to fill up the heart of anyone, especially people who have words of affirmation as their top love language.
A Handmade Gift
Similar to the two above options, a handmade gift shows that you put time, effort, and thought into the person. I have historically had an affinity for snow globes, during one of our first holiday seasons together my partner made me a snow globe complete with my favorite Floridian holiday decoration – palm trees with ornaments on them. This gift took time to make and also showed he was listening to me when I talked about the hilarity of ornaments on palm trees! My best friend makes the most incredible holiday cookies and gives us a tin every year that we devour. I’ve been known to make t-shirts with favorite phrases from people I love. This can be a great way to save money and give a heartfelt gift at the same time.
My partner has a family member that loves to visit national parks with her spouse. As a holiday gift one year we gave them candles inspired by their favorite national parks from Etsy. My mom loves the south of France, so one year I gave her a sachet of lavender, a French-inspired candle, and other goodies sure to bring France home to her. Showing that we listen and know our loved ones creates a sense of validation and connection. The best part? None of those gifts were particularly costly, but they were meaningful and well-received.
I recommend self-care to all of my clients, and the large majority of clients struggle with where to start. Simply stated self-care can be any activity, done intentionally, which supports one's mental health and ‘fills up their cup’ as it’s sometimes said. A self-care essentials gift could be face masks, a bath bomb, and a candle, or perhaps a gift certificate to a local yoga studio, even a ‘coupon’ to watch someone’s children for a day could be an awesome approach to offering self-care as a gift. Think about what your loved one values for their mental health and then help them get it.
Experiences to Share
Living in the Orlando area I could do one new thing every day and never run out of cool stuff to try. That may not be true everywhere, but there are always fun ways to build closeness and spend time if we look. Sometimes the best gift might be something fun to do rather than something physical to own. Know a music lover? Buy concert tickets and go with them! A bougie queen? Take her to the spa! Foodie? Take them to a nice restaurant. Thrill seeker? Check out an amusement park or heck, go sky-diving! There are so many cool things to do and getting to enjoy them with your gift receiver doubles the joy and can reinforce the relationship.
The Adventure Challenge Books
A client introduced me to this company a few years ago and it’s quickly become one of my go-to suggestions for folks. This company offers a series of books for families, couples, friends, and solo adventurers. There’s even an advent calendar to get adventuring during holiday festivities. The books have scratch-off activities to complete with a section to write about the adventure and even add a picture. The books become scrapbooks of fun memories to relive once completed. This is a gift of quality time and attention that keeps the fun going throughout the year and helps to build closeness and connection with your gift receiver. An important note, I am not affiliated with this company or its products listed and receive no financial incentive or compensation for recommending them, I just love this gift idea!
There are so many options for giving meaningful gifts that won’t break the bank. Whatever you celebrate this time of year, the underlying themes of hope, renewal, and connection likely underpin the merriment of holiday meals and parties. When thinking about the people in your life you’d like to shower with joy and gifts, don’t forget to make time and space to be kind to yourself. In any meaningful relationship, our presence is the greatest present, and if we’re pouring from an empty cup because we’ve only been focusing on others we can’t be truly present.