Home All Holiday Gift Ideas for 2015: Actions and Experiences

Holiday Gift Ideas for 2015: Actions and Experiences

written by Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton 15 December 2015

Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Kathryn co-edited the third book in the series, Character Strengths Matter, with Shannon Polly. Their co-authored articles are here.

Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.

Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06 also co-authored Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits. Blog. Full bio. Her solo articles are here.

Editor’s Note: This is the continuation of the annual holiday gift article that started yesterday with books and things. Today’s suggestions are about experiences and actions that can contribute to well-being.

The names of most people making suggestions are links to their collections of articles for PPND.

Want more ideas? Track back through ideas from earlier years, starting with 2014 and following the link back to 2013 and so on. We’ve been publishing holiday gift articles since 2008.

Lisa Sansom suggestions

I recommend the gift of time with good friends. You can’t choose your family, and sometimes family time can be stressful. Who is it that elevates you? Who sees the best in you when you are feeling the worst? Who energizes you and makes you feel like you are 100% and more? Seek out their company, either in person or virtually. Then pay it forward. Take someone else out who needs good social support and be there for them, once your bucket is filled.

Sherri Fisher Suggestions

Tap into your strengths with friends and family this holiday season.

Find free educational activities. In the northern tier (Brrrr cold) states of the US, many outdoor museums are effectively closed. But they often have free or very low-cost programs to keep people interested in them. Sign up for the mailing list and take a friend to a video presentation. Then have coffee and dessert together. Great for sharing a learning experience while building warm and friendly feelings.

Go ice skating. This is increasing in popularity as fewer lakes stay solidly frozen for safe skating. Hop on public transportation to a nearby city. You can travel, rent skates, take spins about the rink and sip hot chocolate for a bargain price while making fun holiday memories on video with your smartphone.

Tour local holiday shops at a nursery. No matter what holiday you celebrate, you can enjoy decorated tree and light shows. Imaginative displays of ornaments, flowers and home decor can provide hours of free entertainment. Many shops offer mulled cider and festive music while you walk through their rooms. Share the delight with a young friend and watch their eyes sparkle!

Thomas Heffner Suggestion

One of the best life experiences I’ve had is taking an Improv class with Second City in Chicago. A great gift experience is to search for a local Improv group that teaches improv classes and buy your friend or family member the gift of an Improv class. Improv is fun, humorous, and a great way for you to learn how to think on your feet more effectively. Most importantly, it’s a great way to learn how to collaborate better.

Aislinn Pluta Suggestions

My favorite gifts are gifts of experience, but I love any kind of gift that steps outside the box of today’s tradition of giving new things. Gifts of time or skill, gifts to charities in a person’s honor, handmade gifts, and even secondhand gifts are all great ideas. One resource I find helpful for making your holiday wish list is the SoKind alternative gift registry.

Scott Crabtree Suggestions

The gift most likely to bring happiness is an experience in the future. So give a vacation, a getaway, or just a dinner reservation or movie tickets, and look forward to this experience with your loved ones.

Do NOT add a little something on top of that gift. As Chris Peterson described in his blog, the presenter’s paradox suggests that in the giver’s mind, we are just giving more, but the recipient’s mind averages the gifts, resulting in lower overall perceived value when you add a little something to that generous gift of yours.

Jan Stanley Suggestions

A Memory. Want to help someone feel cared for in a unique way? Try giving them the gift of a memory this year. Here is a brief sample of the many forms a special gift of a memory might take.

  1. Send along a photo of the two of you. On the back of the photo or in a letter accompanying it, describe what you remember of the scene and what it meant to you to be together at that moment.
  2. If you save mementos, find a card or letter the person sent to you. Send it back to them (or make a copy if you desperately want to keep the original) with a note with your memories of that time in your life. Share your appreciation for your connection.
  3. Write up a memory of a special time you remember when the person made a difference in your life. Maybe they helped you through a difficult time or maybe they just made you laugh to lighten your days. Think of a special way to display the memory – maybe print it on a cardstock or frame it in a paper/mat frame (not to hang on the wall, just to make it special).
  4. Think of the music you listened to together and create a gift centered on it. It could be a recommended playlist, a cd or some other representation of the music you shared. Whenever I hear Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John I think of riding in my friend Judy’s yellow Opal Cadet, which she called her “”lemon.”” A sweet little memory connected to music is lovely.
  5. If appropriate and you want to go all out, use a storytelling guide to write up a favorite memory. This would be extra special as the story would have more structure, narration and creative elements. “I didn’t realize that night was going to change my life forever. But there we were, walking past the…..”
Margaret's Post-It

Margaret’s Post-It

Margaret Greenberg Suggestion

Give the gift of being present. Last holiday season I started a new family tradition. Upon entering our home, family and friends were greeted by a Post It Note that read: “Rather than presents, let’s be present. Deposit your cell phone here.” While a few guests balked (“I might want to take a photo with my phone.”), most were delighted to connect with real people, in real ways, in real time, without the distraction of Googling some mundane questions like: Who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story or how many calories are in a glass of egg nog?

In our book, Profit from the Positive, Senia Maymin and I write about how damaging being absent-present, when you are physically present, but mentally absent,can be to your career. It can also be damaging to your relationships and overall well-being.

At your next holiday gathering (or business meeting for that matter), I challenge you to be a positive deviant and put up a similar sign. Having people over tonight? Try it. Being present is the best gift we can give and receive. Who has the courage to request that people be present?

Marie-Josée Shaar Suggestion

One thing we want to do with baby James when he grows up a little and gets too many toys for Christmas (he already had too many) is to ask him to give one toy away to another kid who does not have much. We are hoping that teaches him to share, to think of other people, and to be grateful for what he has.

Sulynn Choong Suggestion

Spreading Christmas joy: every year I invite only non-celebrating people to Christmas lunch at my home. They may be alone this Christmas or of other faiths. For two years now, I have had Muslim friends for Christmas lunch so no alcohol and no pork. Tis’ the season for giving: love, friendship, companionship, food, and fun!

Shannon Polly Suggestion

I am planning on donating to charities that are special to the receiver. In addition, I have been impressed with the Give Well site which tracks the best charities and how far your dollars can go. Recent research shows that giving people money is the best use of your giving because most people are likely to spend it wisely. One of the top charities listed on Give Well is giving cash to people in East Africa.

In addition, we are going to give a family member a vacation (an experience) and tell her about it before Christmas so that she can savor a bit longer.

Of course, there will be a number of people who are going to receive Character Strengths Matter!


Image credits:
Ice skating courtesy of Benson Kua
Green sticky courtesy of Margaret Greenberg

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1 comment

Judy Krings 16 December 2015 - 9:46 am

Loved reading every line here. I am smiling ear-to-ear.
Give to others and give peace to yourself, too. Self-compassion during this season is important.

I often ask my positive psychology coaching clients, “How would you show up for your holiday preparations and celebrations if you kindly challenged yourself to ‘Go Lightly”?

Many get a post-it note and write this down. Or write it on a pretty holiday card. I also encourage them to smile while they are writing it and to smile each time they look at it or say it out loud.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to you. Know everyone here is a gift to me all year long. I am grateful you color my life with joy every post. THANK YOU!


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