The Gift of Gift Giving

Generosity During the Holidays

Ella Spitz, Contributing Writer

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As we are nearing the holiday season, people are beginning to spread joy by giving presents to their loved ones. Stella Jacobs ’21, currently enrolled in Jewelry Making, spends her time crafting rings, earrings, and bracelets. However, instead of keeping her class projects, she says she tends to give them away as presents to her friends.

“It just gives me joy to see their faces when I hand [them] a pair of earrings or a ring,” Jacobs reflects. “It feels better because I know I made it, so it’s special.” This makes sense, for the simple reason that generosity makes us happier. It is indeed important that we continue to give gifts as time goes on in order to teach ourselves how to make connections and express ourselves emotionally.

Another important lesson gift-giving teaches us is an important one: friendship. One major necessity of being a happy person is having people you care about. Yes, they may get under your skin at times, but these people give you a sense of purpose. In order to have these people in your life, you need to have the ability to make social connections, and gift-giving teaches you that skill.

Despite the occasional annoyance of searching for a gift, experts like Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, say that not giving gifts would put a damper on one’s connection with the people they love. On Langer’s blog post “To give and to receive: the when and the why,” she writes, “Attending to someone else’s needs leads to affection for the person attended to. Discouraging a desired potential suitor from giving, then, is clearly the wrong strategy.”

Gift-giving is a practice of selflessness and can help improve our psychological health.”

That being said, it is important for us to know, as humans, that cutting out this long-lasting tradition of giving gifts would result in a much lonelier and unaffectionate world.

Communication between individuals is another pillar of a successful and thriving society. Even on a smaller scale—for example, a relationship between two people—open communication is extremely important for maintaining a healthy relationship.

When it comes to expressing emotion, some say actions speak louder than words, and one of the best actions one can take to express themselves is giving a gift. This has been proven time and time again as people’s psychological health has improved as they gave gifts.

In South University’s article “The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving,” Devin Byrd, the chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at South University, says, “Giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude.” He goes on to say, “There is an emotional lift when searching for a gift.” What Byrd talks about is altruism: our concern for others’ well-being. He believes that gift-giving is a practice of selflessness and can help improve our psychological health.

Yes, the season for presents is here. But keep in mind that giving presents year-round doesn’t make them less special. In fact, giving presents year-round makes each one more important to yourself and others. Each gift you give and each reaction you get can help maintain your sense of happiness and better your mental well-being. So, don’t miss out on gift-giving this week, month, or year. The more presents you give, the more you practice generosity. And, as they say, practice makes perfect.

 

This piece also appears in our December 2018 print edition.