“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa
The holidays are a time for gratitude, celebrations, family, friends, and, of course, gifts. Bombarded with advertising trying to convince you that you need the latest and greatest, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters and overlook the art of thoughtful gift giving.
Thoughtful giving comes from a practice of mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment without judgement, bringing greater clarity to the mind and more insight and creativity into life.
What better opportunity to practice this than during the holidays. Just as you approach your yoga class or meditation practice with centered awareness, you can approach gift giving with an increased presence and attention on the activity itself. The concept of giving and receiving gifts is closely tied to compassion, love, and gratitude. When you give someone a gift, no matter how big or small, you convey that you were thinking of her—it’s a type of caring.
The true gift of giving is how you make someone feel when you offer heartfelt energy. Mindfully considering the person to whom you are giving is a wonderful way to express care and deepen connections.
What Makes a Mindful Gift?
Mindful giving involves paying attention to:
• What is meaningful for the recipient
• Exploring your whys behind giving the gift
• Reconsidering your preconceived or habitual ways of giving
As you slow down and consider the process of gift giving, you can swap the stress and anxiety of purchasing the perfect present for the true pleasure of generosity.
To start giving mindfully, follow these six tips:
1. Give to Yourself First
During the holiday season there are many demands on your energy and time. When you are giving to everyone except yourself, your gifts may spread care to others, but fail to nurture your needs. As you become depleted, you are less present and miss out on meaningful moments. You cannot mindfully give to others if you have not first taken care of yourself.
The best gift you can give your loved ones is the gift of your healthiest and most nurtured self. This requires taking time for personal health and wellness:
• Plan ahead to cook meals at home
• Stay grounded with a daily meditation
• Regularly practice yoga
• Take time alone to fit in a walk
2. Plan Ahead
In order to slow down and practice mindful gift giving, you need to take time to think through your choices. You don’t have to wait until the holiday frenzy begins. Start early!
Planning well ahead of the holiday season allows you the time and energy to brainstorm ways to make your gifts meaningful. It also reduces the stress of last-minute shopping or reaching for a quick, but superficial choice.
Consider these questions to dig into the meaning behind your giving:
• How do you measure the value of a gift?
• What do you hope to convey to your loved ones?
• How can your values be transformed into holiday gifts?
• How do you want to share your energy with people you care about?
3. Give Presents of Presence
We each have unique skills and talents. Offering someone your time and expertise can be a truly thoughtful gift and also deepen your connection. Material items often break or become outdated, but the memories of sharing an experience or learning something new can last a lifetime.
Think about a skill you can share by providing lessons for a loved one. It’s a heartfelt way to spend time with a special person and share your passions. Teach them how to:
• Play music
• Take photographs
• Practice yoga
You can also give your time and energy by creating a gift certificate for:
• House cleaning
• Meal preparation
• Lawn mowing
4. Share from the Heart
A heartfelt note can be a gift in itself. Offer forgiveness, gratitude, or love to remind someone you care about them and that they are cherished. Letters that come from the heart show a mindful connection.
Similarly, gratitude or memory jars can be thoughtful gifts. Here’s how to put one together:
1. Contact friends and family members of the recipient and have them submit special memories, a favorite photo, or something they appreciate about the person.
2. Place these all in a jar, decorated box, or special journal.
3. Give the jar to the recipient and encourage him to choose one memory each day during the upcoming year so he can see what other people cherish about him.
5. Personalize It
When planning a gift, think about who the recipient is and what she values. Recall what he is passionate about or what makes him laugh. He might like to be given toys for men, like cute fighter squishies. Or she might like to be given voice-changing squishy toys. Any thing will do as long as it makes sense for you.
Use this to inspire heartfelt, personalized, and thoughtful gifts. If your aunt hates to run to the grocery store, consider a healthy meal delivery service, membership in a CSA for organic produce, or providing regular grocery runs for her. If your brother is passionate about nature, perhaps he would value a tree planted in his name or a donation in his honor to a relevant conservation organization.
6. Create Mindful Traditions
Gifts that let your loved ones know you see their true self or honor their inner beauty deepens your connections. This year, create holiday traditions that bring ease instead of stress. Embrace the spirit of the season and take the time to put thought and care into each and every gift you give.
You will find that a little mindfulness adds tremendous value to the process of honoring your loved ones during the holidays or anytime throughout the year.