Ariel Gore

Women and Happiness

Give the Gift of Happiness

Ten Gift Ideas to Boost Well-Being

Posted Dec 03, 2010

Sometimes Making Pie is Better than a New Truck

Experiences Make Us Happier than Things...

What to get for that special someone on your list who has everything?

It's not an uncommon dilemma.

According to Pew Research, fully 98% of Americans have televisions, for example. Thirty-six percent of us own flat screens. Most of those flat screens were probably purchased by people who already had functioning televisions--which may explain why most American households are home to more televisions than people.

So begin the musings of J. Ian Norris and Jeff T. Larsen in their recent article for the Journal of Happiness Studies in which the psychologists explore the "have-want discrepancies" that affect so many of us in a consumerist world.

Studies show that wanting more than we have is a recipe for misery. On the other hand, wanting what we already have predicts happiness.

Once our basic needs are met, experiences actually make us happier than any "thing" money can buy.

Miriam Tatzel, an expert in consumer psychology, has identified four types of consumers--the Value Seeker who's tight with money and materialistic; the Big Spender who's loose with money and materialistic; the Non-Spender who's tight with money and not materialistic; and the Experiencer who's loose with money and not materialistic.

Many of us bounce around between types, but we have a basic habit. Which kind of consumer are you?

According to Tatzel, Experiencers are the happiest among consumers and Big Spenders are the least happy - and have the most credit card debt.

So what can you get for that hard-to-shop-for someone who has it all?

Even if your loved one is a materialistic Big Spender, you're not likely to go wrong with the gift of experience.

Food, friends, entertainment, travel--

How about...

No need to spend money on the gift of adventure or experience--offer your loved one a save-the-date coupon for a day at the beach, a hike and picnic, or a few hours of painting in your studio.

Make a Gourmet Meal
Make a beautiful meal you've never attempted before. Or take your friend out to a new restaurant.

Give of Your Time
Your time is worth more than your money. Tell a particularly busy friend that you'll be donating several hours of your time to a project you know s/he supports--anything from coastal clean-up to feeding families to public art.

Movie Tickets
One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received as a packet of tickets to Laurelhurst movie theater in my old city. It was a second-run house with affordable prices, but having the free tickets inspired us to get out of the house so much more often that winter.

Write a Poem or a Song
And perform it live! For my 40th birthday, my friend Anah K brought her accordion to my apartment and played me a song. The best birthday gift EVER.

Sign up for a Class or Workshop
If you know what your loved one is into (or at least what s/he's not not into) offer a few yoga or art classes, a botanical walk, or something to do together that neither of you has ever tried before.

Assuming you're good with the little ones or know someone who is, your parenting friends all want some babysitting love. Offer a coupon and let your parent-friends get out and have some fun or even just take a little nap...

An Intergenerational Gesture
Remember: Parents like kid-friendly events, too. And plenty of your friends are living with extended family. Throw a family-friendly party instead of buying a physical gift.

Vacation, Anyone?
Who doesn't need a little R&R? Chances are, even a weekend getaway close to home will bring more joy than an object of the same price. But keep in mind: Studies suggest that planning a vacation is part of the fun. Design your gift so that the recipient has some control over the vacation itinerary.

Unconditional Love
My friend Kathe Izzo is known as "The Love Artist." She promises to offer her patrons unconditional love for a full day. She can even love you from afar--everything she does in a given day from washing the dishes and walking the dog to talking with you on the phone is done with pure love just for you. Offer your friend pure and unconditional love for a day.



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