The Joy of Gift Giving
If you’ve ever opened a gift that made you feel special or received a thoughtful thank-you note from someone, then you know that the experience of giving and receiving can be extremely rewarding. In fact, decades of research suggest that gifting may be the most potent form of social bonding we have, and that it’s likely even more effective than a hug or a pat on the back. It turns out that oxytocin, the hormone associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being, is released during both giving and receiving.
It’s important to give gifts that are meaningful, but finding that perfect present can be tricky. The key is to pay attention and listen to your loved ones. By taking the time to listen to what they say and how they express their wants and needs, you can often uncover clues about their interests and what they value in life. In fact, experts say that a great gift is not necessarily something expensive but rather one that reflects the recipient’s personality and is personalized for them.
The first step to getting the right gift is to think about what you want your recipient to feel when they open it. For example, if you want to show your love for your best friend and want her to feel warm and happy, consider a sweater or a book that she has been talking about recently. If you’re looking for a gift to celebrate a milestone birthday, try a physical item like a new watch or a piece of jewelry with her birthstone or initials. A sentimental gift can also be a great way to show your affection, but make sure it’s not too sappy or it could backfire.
Another mistake people often make when gift shopping is buying the same thing year after year for their friends or family. A repetitive gift can become boring, and it can also signal that you don’t really care about the person or their tastes. By contrast, a unique gift that shows thought will always be appreciated.
Many people get stress about gift giving, and they may be tempted to use the opportunity to send a message or to make a point about themselves. However, research suggests that underhanded gifts often do more harm than good, especially to close relationships. They can also create resentment and make people feel embarrassed, which can wreak havoc on a relationship.
In general, people tend to appreciate a gift more when it’s utilitarian than when it’s a fashion or status symbol. That’s why it’s a good idea to steer clear of giving gym memberships and anti-aging products, even if they are meant to be funny or ironic.
When in doubt, a gift card is a safe bet. It doesn’t have the same emotional weight as a physical item, but it’s still a decent option and will probably be used. If you do want to go the extra mile, include a note that mentions what you know about them and how you’re thinking of them.