Home All Gifts for the 2017 Holiday Season

Gifts for the 2017 Holiday Season

written by Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton 11 December 2017

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.

Since 2008, we have had an annual article of ideas for holiday gifts. Need more ideas? Start working backwards through the previous lists! Here’s a link to 2016, which has links back to earlier years.

Martin Seligman recommends the following books this year:

Kathryn Britton: I want to go next so that I can underline the choice, A Gentleman in Moscow. I read it out loud to my husband, and then started at the beginning to read it again, savoring some of the details I missed the first time through. In case you can’t guess, I never worry about spoilers.

I got a question from my daughter about feminist children’s books, especially for mothers of boys. I recommend all the fantasy novels by Tamora Pierce. Her main character is almost always a girl who operates as an equal with the boys and is usually a wonderful example of grit and endurance in the face of very difficult challenges. The stories occur in fantasy worlds where people have magical gifts, but the gifts must be developed and controlled with mindfulness exercises. My son and I both enjoyed them when he was younger. Here are a few examples:

Finally, for the writers among you, let me share something on my daughter’s holiday gift list: “Write down your memories of any period in your life.” I used to think, “Who would care what I remember, my life is so ordinary.” Then I started wondering about my great grandmother, mother of 10 boys and 2 girls, whose days were filled with what she must have considered very ordinary activities from gardening to cooking to child care to laundry to housecleaning. I would love to know what went through her mind when she moved from Missouri to southern Idaho to help settle Magic Valley. Times change. Memories are important.

Todd Kashdan: When it comes to gifts, I regularly ensure that it will increase someone’s well-being. My favorite gift to give is a RumbleRoller with tire treads to help my friends and family improve their mobility. This high-end foam roller is the first device I use in the morning. Not only does it help stretch the muscles in my body, rolling serves as my meditation practice. Slowly, patiently, searching for pain points and then staying right there instead of moving away. A daily reminder that the action for physical and mental health is to play in the discomfort zone.

Judy Krings: Doing Random Acts of Kindness, at least five in a day, really lifts my spirits and puts me in happy holiday mode. It plasters a smile on my face when I see the look of eye-brow-raising surprise on someone’s face. More fun is to be a Secret Santa and do a good deed. Perhaps leave a small note with a strength you have noticed that person use. Or put one single blossom on a co-worker’s desk.

Last year, I baked many kinds of cookies and distributed them to everyone I knew down here in Puerto Vallarta. My nail gal, hair stylist, massage therapist, doctors, and all the staff and friends in our condo building. Sweet savoring.

A gift you give yourself is to keep on your desk or in your wallet or purse the list of your Values In Action (VIA) 24 strengths. If you get frustrated or stuck in life, take a gander at your list. Ask yourself. “What strength might I put into action to help me sort out this tough stuff?”

Another idea is to be on the look out for anything beautiful, interesting, or something you like or admire. Take a photo of it. Savor it. Even more fun, know what your friends enjoy. Send a lovely photo to surprise them with your thoughtful love. I know my dear friend, Jan Stanley, loves rainbows. It gives us both grins when I flash her my latest find.

You might also take photos of objects, activities and memory-maker occasions reflecting one of Positivity author, Barbara Fredrickson’s 10 Positive Emotions: Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Awe, Amusement, Hope, Pride, Inspiration, and the grand daddy of them all, Love. This is really an upbeat way to increase mindfulness, awareness, and overall well-being.

Most folks love books. Each year I try to find ones I think each friend might enjoy. Tailor-made to their interest. One of my favorites is NO MUD, NO LOTUS by Thich Naht Hanh. This delightfully wonderful well-being book helps you overcome life’s big and little problems. Terrific practical wisdom.

Merche with her yoyo

Merche Ovejero: Start learning something about juggling and skill toys. Juggling and skill toys are great for kids and adults. I love skill toys such kendama, flower sticks, yoyo… These activities are really good for self-esteem. They enhance perseverance, and you can make lots of friends. Also you’ll have lots of fun! Starter yoyos and kendamas are unexpensive!

Lisa Sansom: This year, I’m into kindness, community support and non-materialism. So what can you give someone? Give them the gift of time – yours and theirs. Do you know a stressed-out parent? Give them the gift of a free evening of babysitting. Do you have a lonely family member? Give them the gift of spending time with them. Do you have a tired spouse? Give them the gift of a day off from the chores and family obligations. Do you know a cause that you’d like to support? Give them the gift of your hard work and efforts – and perhaps you can share that with someone else and spend time with a close friend while doing good in your local community. Gifts don’t have to be “things” and gifts don’t have to have a holiday time limit. Think heartfully and deeply about each person on your list – what do you feel they really want or need right now, but can’t give themselves? Give them that.

Scott Crabtree: Choose Happiness @ Work helps teams learn about positive psychology –and each other–while laughing and having a good time. This game and facilitation tool is thoroughly grounded in science. See our reference list. Use code PPND20 to get 20% off, and support Positive Psychology News at the same time. 🙂

Orin Davis: My favorite gift suggestion is to give the person something (s)he would like but wouldn’t indulge in buying. I’m also a fan of writing a short message on a $4-$5 gift card instead of giving money to greeting card companies.

Seph Fontane Pennock: The party game called Escape Room (Spinmaster Games). It requires a team of people to really communicate and work together and brings forth the leaders in a group. Hands down the most challenging and fun party game I’ve ever played. I highly recommend it as a gift!

Donald Officer: My book club’s current selection is one well worth investing time and effort in. Robert Sapolsky’s Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst is the title. It is often entertaining, funny, and provocative. It’s not always an easy read as it is about topics in neuroscience, neurobiology, and ethology. The big thing is it’s a mind expander for anyone who enjoys that.


Margaret Greenberg: The most meaningful gift we can give each other this holiday season is to be present. I mean really present.

Three years ago I started a new family tradition. Upon entering our home, family and friends are greeted with a basket and this Post It note: “Rather than presents let’s BE present. Please deposit your cell phones here.”

While a few guests balked…”I might want to take a pic,”…most were delighted to connect with real people, in real ways, in real time, without the distraction of Googling mundane questions like: Who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story or how many calories are in a glass of eggnog?

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 greet your guests with a similar sign. Having people over this holiday season? Give it a try. Who has the courage to request that people be present for a change?

Senia Maymin. I recommend as gifts three children’s books by my father, Zak Maymin. Why? Because the Truth Series lead to great discussions with your kids about what matters in life and what the truth is.

Here’s the author’s Amazon page.

Also, our friends at Live Happy magazine are giving away $10 gift subscriptions! Live Happy is really super at providing research on happiness and well-being. Margaret Greenberg and I are honored to be their co-columnists for the positive work column. No, positive work is not an oxymoron!


There you have it. Our suggestions are mainly things you can do for others (the gift of a free evening of babysitting, being present, writing down your memories of any period in your life), things you can do for yourself (a starter yoyo, the feeling of helping someone else), and books we’ve really loved.

What is a present you’ve given that has meant a lot to the person you gave it to? What is a present that you’ve received that’s meant a lot to you? Let us know in the comments. These holiday articles are referenced throughout the year. The more specific or personal our suggestions, the more a reader now or in the future may find the ideas best match the desires in their hearts when it comes to gift-giving.

Happy holidays from all of us at Positive Psychology News!

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