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There are many occasions in life suitable for gifting. Apart from the traditionally important dates such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, we also like to celebrate a particular occasion, milestone, or simply express our love and gratitude.

Try to remember what type of gifts left the strongest impression on you. Was it an expensive piece of clothing and jewelry, a book, a hand-written gratitude letter, or a surprise fun day at the beach?

According to a study conducted in 2004 at the University of Colorado, it’s not the material gifts that make people happy––it’s the experiences. More than 12000 surveyed respondents were much happier and more eager to invest in having a great time and experiencing something new and interesting rather than in purchasing material objects.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to inspire you to make some mindful investments this year that are different from gift buying. Would you consider the following three suggestions that science has shown have stronger effects when it comes to showing your love and care compared to anything you could buy in a store?

The act of giving is equally important both to the receiver and the gifter. So let’s think through once again what valuable and meaningful things we can give.

1. Kind Words

Compliments and kind words are well-known to be memorable and important. When someone you admire, love, and appreciate compliments or praises you, you tend to memorize these words and often return to them in your thoughts.

Compliments and words of support received from other people are often an important part of our identity and self-perception. The main benefits of receiving them are courage, perseverance, a boost in confidence and happiness, and also a stronger connection with the person who compliments us.

The best way to give a compliment is to be as specific and genuine as possible. These kind words are little gifts of love and attention and they tell the receiver you notice and cherish them.

What’s also important is that you know how to accept a compliment. Many people feel anxious when complimented due to insecurities and tend to disregard them:

– You look amazing today!

– Oh, please, stop.

Accepting a compliment acknowledges the complimenter’s mindful and kind efforts to approach you.

2. Time and Attention

Nowadays, it has become a new normal for us to split our attention between different activities and screens. It often happens that we write an email on our phones or check the social media notifications while having a conversation with someone. This type of behavior sends a message that the conversation and, consequently, the person is not our priority.

The more engaged we are in a conversation, the more meaningful it becomes for both us and the interlocutor. Engagement and the ability to focus on just one thing at a time also reflect commitment and a mindful lifestyle.

Remember: undivided attention is something we can gift every day––we don’t need to reserve it just for special occasions. The more focused we are on the person and the moment we’re spending with them (even if it’s just a phone call), the deeper our bond becomes.

If you’re answering emails, try doing just that. That way you’ll write something proper and thorough, include all the necessary information, and show the receiver that you invested time and energy into delivering the message. If you’re listening to someone telling you about their day, stop doing everything else, be all there, and listen mindfully. Even if you have nothing to say back, your attention will be more than enough.

3. Meaningful Experiences

Doing things that are fun, meaningful, and exciting makes us happier. Meaningful experiences that we share with other people help us build stronger connections with them.

Buying a gift for your partner is great, but how about baking a cake together, organizing a dinner, or taking a class together and learning a new skill?

It’s the same with friends and family. Going to a spectacular museum show, having a trip together or taking a cooking class together, learning a new language, making origami, literally anything you can think of is a way to spend meaningful time with your loved ones and create memories you will always cherish.

There’s nothing wrong in buying gifts, especially if it’s something that you know for sure the receiver would appreciate. It’s one of the ways we express our appreciation and show how much we care about the other person. But also remember this: sometimes, what people really want is to be acknowledged and loved. And kind words said with honesty, quality time spent together, and mindfully organized experiences can be the most valuable and precious gifts.

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