To gift is human. So say social anthropologists who study the history and evolution of gift-giving rituals and deem them core to creating and maintaining social relationships. In essence, gift-giving is part of what it means to be a human being.
If you find that giving the perfect gift feeds your soul, there’s good reason. Modern psychology suggests that gifting supports emotional and even physical wellbeing for the giver, even more so than for the recipient. So that begs the question, have many of our gifting rituals becomes perfunctory acts of obligation rather than the deep social experiences that have made them foundational to our humanity?
Is Finding the Most Thoughtful Gift a Chore or a Pleasure?
One Christmas eve many years ago, I rushed through a department store with my new boyfriend, trying to beat the clock to find a gift for my longtime best friend, Jill. Nothing seemed right. The store was about to close, so I said to my love, “OK, I give. I’m going to cop-out and just get her a bottle of her favorite fragrance.” What a gaffe that comment turned out to be. Later that evening, my boyfriend and I exchanged the gifts of our first Christmas together. You guessed it, he bought me a bottle of perfume, the fragrance his mother wore. Through the years since, I have lovingly given and received numerous fragrance gifts, but that particular experience led to my general apathy about holiday gifting that I must admit has lasted to this day. That’s because expectation and obligation diminish the very best parts of gift- giving: meaningful and intentional acts of kindness that surprise and delight.
Holiday Shopping All Year Long
Scrooge bias notwithstanding, it feels so good to give the perfect gift at the perfect time. And sometimes that perfect time has to be the holidays. But that doesn’t mean waiting for Black Friday to tick off your naughty and nice list. Moreover, gifting doesn’t always mean purchasing. Many of the most meaningful gifts are personal possessions that are passed along with deep thoughtfulness.
Take the contrast between my mother and mother-in-law for example. For much of my life, starting in my teens and well into my adult years, my mother gave me a $50 check for practically every special occasion. Then she would hound me to cash it and want to know what I bought with it. For many, a gift of cash is meaningful and truly valued. But as a successful business executive, the money in the form of a check sat with me as little more than an inconvenience. I eventually had my sister start giving Mom suggestions for inexpensive items I needed or wanted such as tennis socks or bath salts so that I didn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of gift shopping on behalf of my mother for myself.
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, would delight me with something of hers that she thought would be meaningful to me. She would always tell me a story about the gift. My husband’s mom passed away several years ago, but I can still hear her voice in my head when I flip through the worn pages of her cookbook from the 1950s or use the colorful custard ramekins that were her mother’s.
With love and intention
Shouldn’t every gift have a story? In the 2020s, a wellness movement has exploded. Many women feel overwhelmed for reasons too numerous to count. Some of the most thoughtful gifts are those that are given with empathy and compassion to help her redirect some of her love back onto herself.
There’s nothing that makes my heart sing more than when one of the many women in my life tells me the gift I gave her was life changing. As a 35+ year veteran of the beauty and wellness industries, a bar I set for myself and my company is that the products we create make enough of a difference in somebody’s life that they are inspired to purchase them as gifts for others.
I’m grateful that wellness and beauty industry cognoscenti see the Solvasa Crystal Wand as worthy of a place on their lists of top gifts for wellbeing. Our product line even includes a fragrance. It’s an aromatherapy blend of essential oils in a crystal shaped vessel that’s designed to be a focal anchor. I often bundle two of the oils together as a gift for my Type A female friends – one for them to keep in their cars to help calm traffic stress and the other to use throughout the workday as a digital detox break. Isn’t it ironic that the expression, “it’s the thought that counts,” generally refers to a gift that probably didn’t have much thought put into it? It’s time to give those five simple words the meaning they deserve. When it comes to the very human practice of gifting, it truly IS the thought that counts.