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4 completely un-materialistic gift ideas

by Andy Puddicombe

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Gift-giving is a big part of the holiday season. Some bemoan the materialism or the commercialization of the occasion. But I think that, in the end, this is a chance to do something kind for someone you care about—a ready-made opportunity to act with generosity. How you respond to it is up to you.

That said I can see why people are resistant to buying more material objects for their friends and family, in other words, just giving people more stuff. When you move house, particularly if you move internationally as my wife and I did a couple of years back, you really feel how all the stuff that you accumulate can become a burden. And even if you’re not planning to move countries any time soon, there is a kind of subtle tax that your possessions exert on the life of your mind. Everything you own needs looking after, even if it’s just a little bit. The car needs washing, that shirt needs mending, your mobile phone needs an update—all of these objects, although they’re useful to us, seem to make small demands on us in return.

There’s also the fact that many people, particularly those with children, are engaged in an ongoing battle to keep the stuff that they own manageable. Space, particularly in cities is limited, and it doesn’t take long to accumulate more stuff than you have room for.

So I think it’s worth considering a couple of new ways to approach gift-giving, that can be just as generous and satisfying as the latest gizmo. Here are four completely un-materialistic gift ideas that might help you have a lighter take on the festivities.

1. A day out. Think of something they really like to do, and work out what their perfect day would be (it could be fishing, gardening, or going to a museum) and then spend it with them. While you’re with them that day, be as a present as you can. Set aside your work commitments and enjoy what you’re doing. Funnily enough, the memory of a day like this can last far longer than a material gift would—particularly if the recipient in question is someone you don’t see all that often.

2. A meal. A lot of restaurants will offer vouchers which you buy and give as a gift. Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave, you can even agree to go round to their house and cook for them on a night of their choice. What could be nicer than returning home to a meal from your own private chef? Make them a voucher that they can redeem with you in the future, and slip it into their card.

3. An event. Buy them tickets for a museum exhibit, a concert, or throw a party in their honor. Put together a playlist of their favorite music, a menu of their favorite food and invite their favorite people. It’s a chance to love bomb them—to give a celebration of them.

4. A lesson. There’s that old cliché about giving a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day … I think that buying someone a couple of lessons in something can often be a really nice way to help them on a path they might otherwise feel indulgent taking for themselves. It might be learning the drums, learning to surf or learning car maintenance. Of course, learning to meditate is a life-skill that I’m particularly fond of. (And yes, we do sell gift certificates.)

If you’re looking to adopt a fresh approach to the old festivities this holiday season, then starting a daily mindfulness practice is a great first step. You can download Headspace for free, and make today the day you commit to a quiet, peaceful and contented mind.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.