Editor’s Note: What holiday gifts will you be giving in a few days? Here are some of our favorite gifts related to positive psychology concepts. Please post additional gift thoughts at the end of this article – we’d love to hear what you recommend. Thank you for being with us throughout this year.
Wishing you the happiest of holiday times!~ PPND
Senia: Happiness and freedom: freedom explains 30% of the change in happiness over time. I highly, highly recommend my father’s novel Publicani, published in 2008 – it’s about one family and freedom. It is about deep-seated happiness, a character novel that everyone has called a real page-turner. Plus, if you read closely, the character Sarah is loosely based on the most kick-arse verison of me! Publicani by Zak Maymin ($7.95). ……………………
And because I strongly believe in quantity time as well as quality time… I recommend playing board games with family and friends during the holidays.
Doug: Here’s what I am doing for my wife this year: we often comment to each other about how blessed we are and how thankful we are. I decided to take the alphabet and come up with a word corresponding to each letter that is related to something we are grateful for. For example, “A” is for our daughter Annie, “B” is for our Beach House, “C” is for Church, “D” is for our Diplomas, etc. I’ve written a little paragragh for each item and I’m assembling them into a little book. I’m also planning to upload them into one of those digital picture frames so they will scroll by on her desk in her office. I’m having fun putting it all together and I hope it will be a constant reminder of all the things we are grateful for. BTW – if you have any ideas for the letter “X,” I’d appreciate it – I’m stumped on that one…
Sherri: When my daughter was younger, I took her and some friends to a very chic mall with the understanding that we would not be buying anything. The idea was to see how much fun we could have while not spending any money. They turned it into a sort of “Hollywood Dress Up” day. We all tried on prom dresses and cocktail dresses and fabulous fine jewelry and $500 shoes. We went out for a simple soup and sandwich lunch. We even sat in the massage chair at Sharper Image at the end of the day. The next day some of the kids went to serve communion at the Common Cathedral, a church service for the homeless held regularly on the Boston Common. I made bag lunches with some other moms, and the kids served lunch after the service.
So we had fun and did good work. We had the gifts of friendship, love and kindness!
Sean: Every year, for Christmas and my birthday, I only ask that my kids give me one thing. I ask that they write a poem on any topic that they’d like. I then put theirs names and dates on them, and keep them in a binder.
Margaret: To support positive psychology & education: how about donorschoose.org? Teachers from around the country ask for things they need for their students/classroom/projects and you get to choose what you’d like to support. And then the kids write back to you w/photos. Very cool. My daughter Maegan, a Teach For America teacher, requested 22 dictionaries for her 5th grade classroom in Houston (the ones they had were so old, Hawaii wasn’t even listed as a state!) and got the funding from a generous donor. The kids wrote back to the donor and enclosed pictures of themselves.
Gail: Something I am working on for my daughter: An album of special pictures for her – some of her alone, with me, with her father over the years. Some that she probably has never seen or doesn’t remember any more. Many of them more recent from trips we have taken, etc. Carefully edited to tell a story about her and our family.
Nick: I heartily suggest to our PPND readers a book that is a fun and exciting page-turner, a quick read, and makes people think about freedom and personal strength: “Publicani” by Zak Maymin. ……………….I also suggest giving everyone who means something to you a huge hug, and telling them in a couple of sentences why they are so important to you.
Suzie: Scott Asalone, MAPP ’08, and his business partner Jan Sparrow just released a new book, “Pathways to Greatness: 77 Inspirational essays from The Greatness Project” that is available for purchase at http://www.greatinsightspress.com. The authors address the question of “what makes greatness?” through the use of anecdotes, theory and research into leaders who have achieved the top echelon of success in their fields, ranging from business to public service.
I really like printing out a “Family Tree of Strengths.” I did that for my family for Christmas last year. At Thanksgiving, I had all 14 family members (adults and kids) take the VIA. Then I made a table listing everyone’s top 5 strengths and made it into a booklet. I highlighted one of their top strengths and wrote a few sentences of a time they exemplified that strength.
Kathryn: How about scanning stacks of old photos and copying them onto CDs to give family members. Be sure to label them – for example by giving them descriptive file names. It is amazing how many old photographs families have where nobody remembers who is who any more — pictures that might be real treasures if they connected with family stories. If you have old letters and newspaper articles, you can also scan them to share. I copied all my father’s letters from the Naval Academy to share with my two brothers. Here are some examples from a stack of letters my grandfather sent home from WW I: Cherries a Few Miles from the Front and A Letter Home from the WW I Front.
My friends and I always make donations to favorite charities as our Christmas presents to each other. The person being honored gets to choose where the money goes. We’ve been doing this for years, ever since we started running out of ideas for things. The choice is part of what is important. My choice tends to move around, depending on what is topmost in my mind. This year it is the MAPP scholarship program again.
Timothy: When was the last time you express your love to your family?
Ok, I know we Asian are shy and may feel out of our depth in expressing our love, and maybe we need some innovative ways to do this. How about stealing some ideas from movies? Here is my favourite scene from Love Actually – Sounds good? Gifts don’t necessarily have to be pricey. Yourself and your love would be the most lovely present. Go and express them to those you love.
Snatching the opportunity to express all the followings in Xmas would be a good idea:
- A warm hug, free but invaluable…
- tell them why they are important to you,
- and how grateful you are to them,
- or, just 3 words – I LOVE YOU.
Eleanor: For my husband, I am creating a cheap weekend getaway by using my points from my frequent travels to book a hotel room and transportation to another city to see an art exhibit that he’s been wanting to see. By using my points the whole trip will cost the price of meals and admission to the museum. The real gift is the memories which I will document in a scrapbook as an added gift.
For friends we sometimes make a collection of our favorite holiday music on CD which my husband, daughter and I collaborate on—each contributing our favorite selections. My husband makes a nice cover for the case, which we date and sign. It doesn’t have to be a holiday theme, but a theme makes it fun to choose music selections throughout the year. We have fun teasing each other’s choices. It makes a nice “hostess” gift, as well as a stocking stuffer. For family and friends who know us well enough, it provides an added activity—guessing whose musical taste each song represents! Then we add it to our collection and savor it anew each year.
Having worked in non-profit organizations for many years, I know that they are among the first to feel the pinch in tough economic times. As a gift to your community, a person or family could adopt a local non-profit for a year of giving—time, expertise, money, etc. It’s the small local groups that suffer the most.
Margarita Tarragona: Something I enjoy is getting truly funny jokes from friends in my email, or links to funny Utube clips.The other night I laughed so hard I cried with a joke, and my kids were cracking up just from seeing me laugh so hard. So I would suggest a good free gift would be to make a small selection of funny things and send it to your friends/loved ones.
Send a loved one a note with your memory of a good time you spent together and was meaningful to you, sort of a gratitude/savoring exercise. If you have a picture, even better. If you have pictures from gradeschool or highschool with a friend, digitalize it and send it.
You may be interested in books that have been reviewed on PPND in 2008:
- BioGraphy: The 14th Dalai Lama
- Creating Your Best Life
- The Brain that Changes Itself
- Positive Psychology at the Movies
- Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
- Spiritual Evolution
- The How of Happiness
Additional thoughts on gifts:
- A Creative Challenge for an Abundant Season by Louis Alloro
- Give Holiday Stress the Heave-Ho by Suzann Pileggi
- Family holiday rituals: continuity and gratitude by Kathryn Britton
- On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me by Bridget Grenville-Cleave
- Giving Gifts by Kathryn Britton
- It’s Not That Easy Being Green: The Treadmill of Sustainable Happiness During the Holidays and Beyond by Sherri Fisher