The Happiness Connection  

Give experiences, not stuff

Stop giving your kids so much stuff for Christmas.

No, I am not the Grinch reincarnated. I didn’t even follow this advice myself when my children were young, but I have come to believe that there is a better way to create a magical holiday season than buying, wrapping, and leaving physical presents under the tree.

Instead of giving stuff to your loved ones, give them experiences.

My parents have contributed to this new way of thinking. They are in their late eighties, and buying them presents is darn near impossible. Anything they want, or need, they have.

For the past several years, the gifts I’ve given my mom, revolve around giving her my time. I know she would rather have a day with me than more clutter for her house.

One of her favourite gifts is a morning of shopping and then lunch together. We don’t have to buy anything, it is just a chance to spend time without any pressure to for me to get back to work.

We may only shop for a few hours, but I clear my entire day for her. She looks forward to the occasion, enjoys it in the moment, and then has memories to look back on.

Yes, I spend time with my parents that does not involve being part of a gift, but they never turn down more. A day when I clear my schedule just for them, never gets old.

I have always believed in the importance of family time. Whether it is playing games together, going camping, or watching a movie, this is what bonds people. Doing things makes memories and helps increase our connection.

Our family Christmases have always been a blend of stuff and experiences, but I am beginning to believe that there are a lot of benefits to decreasing the material gifts, and increasing the experiential ones.

Tackling the job of de-cluttering our home has drawn my attention to the amount of paraphernalia I have accumulated. I recommend this exercise to everyone.

You might not think you have much junk in your house, but start delving into the back of those closets and the depths of the basement and you might be surprised.

Why do we hold on to so many things we don’t use, and probably don’t even remember we have? I would be a rich woman now, if I hadn’t bought all the things I was sure I needed at the time, but are now stuffed in a box or closet somewhere.

Giving experiences can cut down on this accumulation of clutter.

In my mind, that is a huge advantage. No more worries about where you are going to put the new accumulation of objects.

Giving experiences can give you more lasting happiness.

Research shows that we get more enduring pleasure from doing things than we do from getting things. Scientist have found that giving experiences also gives an opportunity to look forward to the occasion. This anticipation drives happiness.

There is a magical touch of unknown possibility that comes with imagining what a holiday to Disneyland, or the local ski hill might hold. You don’t know what might happen, who you might meet, or what adventures you might embark on.

Rather than trying to track down the hottest toy for under the tree, think about some of these gift ideas, or be creative and come up with some of your own.

  • A custom calendar with family photos
  • Gift certificates to movies, plays, restaurants, health resorts, coffee shops etc.
  • A box of coupons specially designed for the recipient. (An hour of time with mom, a hockey game with dad, a favourite book being read, two games of monopoly, etc.)
  • A family holiday
  • Volunteering as a family to help a local charity, go to Central America to help build a school, or spend time with the animals at the SPCA
  • A photo album with photographs from the past year
  • A mega sized jigsaw puzzles that everyone can work on together
  • Going to the local pool, bowling alley, movie theatre, mini golf course etc. as a family

The possibilities are endless.

The experience you give does not have to include you, but don’t underestimate what your presence is worth to the people who love you. I used to think that giving my mom a night out at the movies was skimping on a present. Fortunately, she set me straight.

If you are looking for the greatest gift of all to share this holiday season, jump on this bandwagon and focus on giving meaningful life experiences rather than stuff.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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