• By Dana Sparks

Mayo Mindfulness: Giving thought to gift-giving

December 19, 2018

a person holding a present wrapped in brown gift paper with a heart ribbon

The end-of-year holiday season means different things to different people. Family and religious traditions are observed in various ways, but much of the focus tends to be on gift-giving.

Dr. Beth Rush, a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist, says, for her, the holidays are about pausing and thinking about her values. She says gifts are often an automatic way of showing appreciation and gratitude, but making a meaningful connection or having a deeper conversation with someone also can be a gift. "That can probably provide a greater value than some of the tangible gifts we give," says Dr. Rush.

“Gifts can take on many different tones, and we tend to always think of having a wrapped item with ribbon and paper that somebody magically opens," says Dr. Rush. "But sometimes the more meaningful gifts are the things we give from the heart that are behavioral, that are actions and activities we can do with someone we care about.”

Watch: Dr. Rush discusses gift-giving.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Rush are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please 'Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.'  

She suggests people look at how they give. "We tend to think about gifts being something we buy, but we don’t think about other gifts," says Dr. Rush. "For instance, maybe it would be good to go back to that childhood concept of giving coupons: 'I'll help you with this hardware project' or 'I'll help you clean out the garage this spring.'"

Dr. Rush recommends taking a moment to think about your intentions. Are you accomplishing what you want to?

"Are you being authentic with the way you communicate with other people?" she asks. "Are you buying a gift because you feel like you have to, or are you buying a gift that truly reflects how you feel about the person?"

And amid putting value on giving to and doing for others, Dr. Rush says, "It's important people also think about giving to themselves."

Dr. Rush adds,"We tend to think of self-care as always going out and doing something like getting our nails done or going to the gym, but sometimes focusing on self-care is about pausing, being still at your desk, breathing, shutting your eyes, and giving yourself permission to slow down."