It's that time of year again! Holidays, company gifts and traveling. However you celebrate the season, gifts are typically exchanged with fervor and abundance. If you're like me this year and have procrastinated, I've got a few suggestions for gifts: meaningful gifts that are sure to make your loved ones feel, well, loved.
Step 1: Take a moment to complete this quiz: The Five LOVE LANGUAGES
This test was created decades ago to help couples learn how to love each other better. This Christmas, I'll suggest that it's a good way to learn how YOU like to give gifts, and a way to understand how others in your life like to receive them.
My little niece is 18 months old, and the cutest thing on the face of the earth. I'd give her anything she asked for. In fact, I'm saving up now to send her and her daddy to Space Camp when she is older. As I held her squishy, wriggly self in my arms, I started to wonder what was actually best for her: an aunt that would send her on all the science and adventure trips she can handle? Or an aunt that would actually listen to her needs...
We tend to give gifts and show love to others in the way we most like to receive it - gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation or physical touch. I, for example, love physical touch and gifts. For my partner, that means I'm more likely to offer him a back rub than I am to do his laundry. My love language is touch, not acts of service. When I feel the most loved by him, he is holding my hand in public, not doing the dishes (even though I still appreciate it.) He, on the other hand, loves it when I do the dishes, or have the bed made each day. What I've learned is that to make those around me feel loved, I have to speak to their love languages. So I make the bed, and do the dishes.
Not every gift I suggest will require money, but they all will require energy and effort - that's what makes a gift a gift: Your time and energy. Consider your own love language, and what you will have the time and energy to give to those that mean most in your world.
- Massage Coupon Book.
How cheesy can you get? A coupon book? Yeah, that's up there, but if you have people in our life that you feel are the physical touch kind, then a coupon book might be just the ticket for them. Don't stop at massages though, you could pay for a few at a local establishment after all. Think of the touch. Would a mani-pedi do the trick? Maybe even a promise of a hug, at any time they want, at any location - you'll find them.
- Something Soft... or that just feels good.
Physical touch also has a lot to do with the sensations. Maybe it's best to focus on the sensations the gift provides. Think soft blankets, lotions, a massaging chair or foot rest, even a toy that reminds them of the toy they held long ago. Touch doesn't mean you have to be involved, but you can give the gift of that same memorable sensation.
Acts of Service
- Yep, another coupon book. But this one is different.
This time, make the coupons concrete. Add dates, make firm plans and then follow through. As you may know, acts of service actually need to be completed in order to make the recipient feel loved. Instead of promising to do something, go ahead and schedule it. Or take it a step further, and declare a day or week in honor of your loved one, and do all you can in that time to care for them.
- Hire Someone
If your follow through game is weak, consider hiring someone. There are many reasonably priced cleaning services that can come tidy a home or shop. Even an hour of their services can make a huge difference!
DIY: Get your special someone (and maybe yourself) a night away. It doesn't have to be fancy, that's the beauty of the Quality Time language. Usually it doesn't matter what you are doing, as long as you are doing it together. Bonus points if you combine this language with another - such as committing to do laundry once a week, together.
Consider treating your loved one to a retreat where you can spend time together doing unique or adventurous activities. * This is a shameless plug, since I design retreats for my clients looking to deepen their personal work or relationship with others. Take a look at my retreats page if you are interested!
Vertellis is a Dutch card game, where the point is to have meaningful conversations with the friends you have around your table. It's like cards against humanity, but with an ending that helps you connect with your company.
Words of Affirmation
- Love Notes
Create a book or box of small notes that complement and encourage your loved one. Put each one in an envelope and seal it, inviting them to open one when they need it most (or if they just want to feel good.
- A Poem
Write your loved one a poem! Put it in a frame or on parchment paper. Not a poet? Find a book of poems and mark the pages or lines that remind you of them. Pablo Neruda and Maya Angelou are two of my favorites.
- This one is the easiest.
This person likes the item. Think of the last meaningful moment you spent with them, or even one you hope to have in the future, and give your gift based off of that. Keep in mind your own love language: if you like quality time, consider a gift of experience. Go hiking, or create a picnic with the foods they will love.
Finally, the idea that the thought counts still holds true. In our world of consumer driven items and products, we feel that we have to have a big "thing" to give each Christmas. What would happen if we each received a memento of love from those around us, with no strings or physical goods attached? Maybe we would learn that our value doesn't stem from what we can produce, but from the simple fact that we are living, and can love, in return.
"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver
Aleya Littleton: Clinical Counselor, Climbing Guide, Teacher.