With the commercialization of days like Valentines Day, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Days, gift giving can sometimes feel more like a chore than a genuine act of love. However, in a time of so many competing priorities, those designated days also give us a gentle nudge; a reminder to show our appreciation for those special people in our lives.
If you ask us, any and every excuse to shower our loved ones with gifts is worthy of celebration. Here’s why:
1. It feels darn good
It’s in our DNA. Humans are hardwired to derive pleasure from giving. Our pleasure and reward centres actually light up and we receive endorphins from the act of gift giving.
In fact, a study in 2009 by social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues found that people experienced more happiness when they spent money on others than when they spent it on themselves.
As perfectly articulated by St Francis of Assisi, “for it is in giving that we receive”.
So, next time you find yourself groaning about that next gift you ‘have’ to buy, remember – when you give thoughtful gifts, you’re treating yourself too!
2. Our loved ones feel pretty good too
It goes without saying that it feels nice to receive gifts.
Often, it is not the value of the gift, but the thought that goes into it, that warms the heart of the receiver the most. In the words of the infinitely wise Mother Teresa, “it’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving”.
3. Pay it forward
Not only does receiving gifts make our loved ones feel happy and grateful, but it also encourages they themselves be generous, too. The act of giving encourages giving.
This applies not only to our loved ones, but to strangers too. In a 2009 study by Jorge Barraza and Paul Zak, it was found that receiving generosity and empathy results in the release of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is often associated with feelings of love and trust. More than this, it was found that the production of this hormone created a flow on effect of generosity.
Think about a time a server has been incredibly sweet and helpful or discounts your meal; you were probably more likely to give a bigger tip. Or imagine how touched you would feel if the next time you went to the coffee shop, a stranger had already bought your coffee. You’d probably be likely to do the same for someone else either then or in the future.
Generosity breeds generosity, and our world could do with as much of that as we can give it.
4. To see them open the gift
We think the absolute best part of gift giving is getting to watch as the receiver excitedly opens their gift until the last layer of wrapping paper is ripped away, revealing the surprise.
The moment they lock eyes with the gift is one that exposes genuine human emotion. As you witness the pure love, gratitude and joy they have in their hearts, you can actually feel your own heart smile.
It’s basically one big love fest. One that you should take part in as often as possible.
5. It’s a matter of life and death
Remember that age-old phrase; “sharing is caring”? We humans are a social species and we thrive on our capacity for generosity and to care for others.
In an evolutionary sense, it is our tendency for both these things that have prolonged the existence of our species. Charles Darwin, who knew a thing or two about survival, once said: “communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best”.
Yes, you read right. Giving gifts is not just a positive experience for us and for the gift receiver, but indeed for all of humankind.
6. Discover new products and services
How many times have you gone to buy a gift for a spouse, relative or colleague and found the absolute perfect gift… for you. You know that they will love it too, so you buy it for them.
Not only do you bask in the glory of complete selflessness, but you also know exactly where to find that item when you eventually buy it for yourself. A win-win!
7. To give the gift of experience
This would be the definition of the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does the gift receiver have the joy of opening their gift, but you are also gifting them with memories that will last a lifetime. Quite often, these experiences are those that your loved one would probably never seek out or pay for themselves, and could very well be life-changing.
Luckily for you, often experiences (and the memories of those) are made all the better when shared with someone special. In a lot of cases, it makes sense to join in on the experience with your loved one – it’s the polite thing to do, really.
8. Reward someone for a job well done
Especially in the workforce, we get so buried in our work that we often forget to let our colleagues or staff know that they have done a great job or that they have come a long way. Not only does it reward the person receiving the gift, but lets them know that they are appreciated and in most cases will encourage them to continue putting in their best work in the future.
9. For human connection
It makes sense after what we have learned about the reaction of our reward and pleasure centres, that gift giving would create closer bonds. It truly is a chance for us to demonstrate how well we know our siblings, parents, colleagues or special someone, and how much they mean to us with the gift that we buy.
10. To make a difference
Gift giving offers you the opportunity to show your support for a company, initiative or cause that is either close to your or your loved one’s hearts, or is making the world a better place. Maybe it’s a local company that you would like to support; one that engages in environmentally friendly or ethical practices.
Other inspiring gift choices might include sending your gift with a card made from biodegradable seed paper to allow your loved one to grow a plant, or asking people to make a donation to a charity or cause in your behalf as a philanthropic alternative to buying you a gift.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi; “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
11. To ease your guilt
There’s a reason why in some cases when a man surprises a woman with flowers her first question is “what have you done?”.
It’s true, as humans none of us are perfect. We mess up, and we do it often. Gift giving, is a way to show that we genuinely do care that our actions might have harmed another (and as you read earlier, you’ll feel good doing it).
12. Influence change
Some people might call it manipulation, but we prefer to look at it as a desire to improve the lives of those closest to us.
Does your boyfriend wear the same plaid shirt day in and day out? Or maybe you have a friend or loved one with a fear of heights that you can help to overcome with the gift of experience. You might want to introduce your loved one to a new company, product, cause or an alternative way of doing things.
Whatever change you want to influence, the simple act of giving a gift is a powerful way to help someone see a new perspective that they might have otherwise not sought out themselves.
13. Show gratitude
Whether you need to say thanks to a friend for saving the day with babysitting duties, or simply to someone in your life who has been the support you so needed – a gift is the perfect touch. It will say ‘even though I don’t say it enough, I appreciate you’.
14. When words won’t cut it
One of the greatest reasons to give a gift is to express our feelings when words are just not enough. Conversely, a gift with a card attached is the perfect excuse to tell someone how you feel when you need to write the words out rather than speak them.
15. For no reason at all
Last but not least – and our all-time favourite reason. The gift that is explained with a simple ‘just because’. Choosing to be generous for no reason at all, if you ask us, embodies the very essence of gift giving.