Deepak Chopra once said: ‘It doesn’t have to be in the form of material things; it could be a flower, a compliment, or a prayer. In fact, the most powerful forms of giving are non-material. The gifts of caring, attention, affection, appreciation, and love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything.’
Gifting can be a tricky business. Giving someone a present should be a caring gesture and a purposeful act. Sadly, both the joy and the meaning of giving seem to be increasingly getting lost.
Whether it’s a birthday or an anniversary, Mother’s Day, New Baby, New Home, New Job… you name it and a tangible gift of some kind will be expected. As if on autopilot, we then head to the shops for something ‘suitable’ and within budget, wrap it nicely and hand it over. Mission accomplished, job done.
What is the meaning of a ‘gift’?
Questions sometimes come to mind that we should no longer ignore. What is the actual purpose of gifts? Nobody really needs more stuff, so why does anyone give presents at all? Are we all getting caught up in ever greater consumerism for the sake of it? What is the true meaning of gifting and is there a better, more mindful way that we could deliver the same message to our family and friends?
The noun ‘gift’ has several definitions according to The Free Dictionary:
- Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to honour a person or an occasion or to provide assistance; present
- The act of giving
- Something bestowed or acquired without being sought or earned by the receiver
- A special ability or capacity; natural endowment; talent:
This means that a gift can be any number of things, and it doesn’t even have to be a physical ‘thing’. You might like the idea of gifting as a way of honouring the relationship you have with a certain person. It means that your gift is an expression of appreciation, love and gratitude for their presence in your life. And if you want to make someone feel special, there are many ways this can be done that are a lot more powerful and meaningful than shopping for ‘stuff’ they may neither need nor value.
Experiences to enjoy and remember
The key to meaningful gifting is to know the other person well enough to understand what brings them joy. You know it’s a cliché but it is the thought that counts. Gifting someone an experience can be a wonderful way to show them that you care.
How about a voucher for a spa pamper day or a beauty treatment they’ve always wanted to try? The latest wellness treatments include LED light therapy for glowing skin and facial reflexology. ‘For centuries, reflexology was a treatment entirely applied to the feet, however recent advances in the profession have revealed that treatment can also be applied via zone reflexes found on the face and neck,’ explains one practitioner.
You might try your best to tailor the gifted experience to the person’s individual interests and personality and see if it can make their eyes light up. Tickets to a West End show? Hot air balloon ride? Jewellery making workshop? The possibilities to give sheer delight are endless.
Giving presence, not presents
While we can’t stop the passage of time as we move through life, we can learn to appreciate being in the here and now. Now is all we have. Or put in a different way, ‘What good is being more successful, more disciplined, more respected, more affluent, or more traveled if anywhere you go you don’t know how to actually be there? To fully feel? To completely live that experience in that space in time?’
There’s nothing wrong about reflecting on the past and planning for the future, but our best life is lived in the present. Find a gift that enables someone to do just that. Here are a couple of successful ideas:
- Mindfulness and meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace or Insight Timer can help those who find it difficult to manage their ‘monkey mind’ but are unsure of embracing mediation. You might tell your friends that they don’t need to do anything other than listen for a few minutes. The effect can be transformative.
- Give the gift of shared time – this could be taking a special person out for dinner (or cooking at home), a day out, a walk in nature or even just a phone call. Giving time freely is precious and priceless, strengthens relationships and human connection and helps to make treasured memories.
Supporting a meaningful cause
There are enough ‘things’ in the world without us adding to the mountain. Rather than buying more stuff, we can honour the birthday boy, mum-to-be or special friend by making a charitable donation in their name. How about researching organisations that support issues close to someone’s heart and discovering where a monetary gift can make a real difference – there are so many good causes to choose from. Perhaps give to local foodbanks, women’s refuges, animal sanctuaries and environmental groups but, of course, the donation must align with the values of the person in whose name it is made.
We all know that climate change is the biggest threat to our continued existence on this planet. Helping to preserve nature is therefore something you may feel compelled to do more of, and gifting can be the perfect opportunity to take direct action while strengthening our bond with nature.
There are lots of ways to give a green gift, from adopting an animal to planting a tree, supporting local rewilding initiatives or beach clean-up operations. You can donate to a global cause such as Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund or you can keep it local and more meaningful on an individual level.
The gift of love and kindness
Perhaps the greatest gift of all is that which we give on a daily basis rather than on special occasions only. This is the gift of kindness and understanding, the way we treat other people around us without judgement or negativity. A friendly smile to brighten someone’s day, a helping hand if we see someone struggling and simply, the offer of a hug when it is needed most.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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