It's easy to get caught up in and stressed out about buying and giving gifts at this time of year. In research from the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of Americans often or sometimes feel pressure to give or get gifts, causing feelings of stress. Other negative emotions were measured: 68 percent often/sometimes felt fatigue, and 52 percent felt irritable. Short of not giving gifts during the holidays, there's another alternative: meaningfully giving gifts.
The problem with gift giving is the joy quickly dissipates. Your invested time and thoughtfulness, while appreciated, doesn't win you extra adoration. As a society, we widely accept the reality that we must invest extra time that often goes unappreciated.
Giving meaningfully is thoughtfully choosing a gift that creates an enduring memory, like an experience or a thoughtful act. Experiences linger longer and are more memorable. Consider this quick test: Recall all the gifts you got last Christmas. Now recall highlights from a memorable trip. Which one resonates with you more?
If you're like most people, the experience holds a more pleasant, and perhaps more vivid memory. In 2014, researchers published in the Psychological Journal that the anticipation of an experience brings us an enduring happiness. Conversely, waiting for a gift is marked by impatience and anticipation.
As for a thoughtful act, this is where I want to focus the rest of this article. You may not escape gift giving this season, but you can bring together gift giving with doing good.
I recently interviewed JJ Ramberg, Founder of Goodshop.com, and the host of MSNBC's Your Business. Ramberg's site runs a program called Goodshop Give. The program allows you to help charities or businesses while shopping online. Ramberg calls it shopfunding.
Shopfunding works this way. You identify or choose a cause or campaign of your choice. For example, I selected the ASPCA. Then, according to the company's website, "when you shop at thousands of stores, a percentage of what you spend will be donated to [the cause or campaign.]" You can create your own cause, perhaps a non-profit in your community? What's also cool is you get access to the best coupon codes. Checkout Goodshop homepage for more details.
For the holiday season, here are a few tips you could use to give meaningfully:
1. Start a shopfunding campaign with your employees.
Let's face it -- your employees are going to be shopping online during work. We all do it! Well, you can mobilize all that shopping to help a local cause. Simply start a Goodshop Give shopfunding campaign for something that matters to all of you.
2. Have a used clothing drive
Ask your employees to bring their used clothing and drop them into a used box. The site Giveback box will then send you a free shipping label to send it all to one of their partner organizations. The second benefit is that box gets a second life!
3. Have a letter writing lunch
Get out some holiday cookies and encourage your staff to send a message to our troops overseas to thank them for their service and remind them that there are people back home thinking of them. You can do this through the USO. You can also send a note to an elderly person to wish them a happy holiday through Love for the Elderly.
4. Host a student for the day
Invite a student from an economically disadvantaged neighborhood to spend the day at your office during their winter break. This is a great way to introduce someone to a career they may not otherwise know about or could learn about.
The holidays can be a source of meaning. We simply need to give meaningfully rather than out of obligation.