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Military Health System

Three Free Holiday Gifts That Boost Well-Being

Image of soldier holding a letter. . Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Holcomb, 33rd Fighter Wing, reads a letter thanking him for his service in Afghanistan Oct. 7 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. A military family member started a letter-writing campaign to honor Eglin's Afghan veterans after being affected by the scenes from that country during the week of Aug. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Karissa Rodriguez)

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Gift giving is a fun and meaningful part of many cultures during the holidays. Try giving 3 "different" gifts to boost the well-being of the recipient and improve your well-being too. Best of all? They're 100% free!

Gratitude

People often buy gifts as a token of gratitude for the other person. However, often your appreciation of someone else is overshadowed by the gift itself. Expressing gratitude should help the other person understand what they mean to you, and what specifically they're doing that you appreciate, so they can continue and build on those behaviors in the future. The holidays are also a great time to thank those whose help might often be taken for granted. Showing thanks can improve your relationships, health, and well-being—and further inspire others to bring more good into the world. Here are a few ways to give gratitude this year.

Write a letter

The power of a handwritten letter expressing what someone means to you can be the most precious gift in the world. Often, people wait until it's too late to truly honor and express what others mean to them. Use the holidays as an opportunity to reflect on who you truly cherish, but never properly thanked, and write them a letter. Learning the impact they had on you will be a much more special stocking stuffer than another pair of socks.

Thank the unthanked

There are many people who work hard throughout the year to make your life better. This holiday season, try to go out of your way to thank those who might not get thanked often. Consider a cashier working extra hard to get shoppers through the line, your postal worker or trash collectors, TSA officers at the airport, or even a customer service call representative. Want to take it a step further? Let their managers know how much you appreciate their outstanding service.

Take a look at HPRC's tips on how to grow your gratitude for more ways to include it in your holiday traditions.

Kindness

Doing kind acts for others will make them and you happier and healthier! Gift giving is in itself an act of kindness, but you can also give your time and talent. Each kind act you do can inspire someone to help others—and improve their view about you and the world. Here are some ideas for gifting kindness this holiday season.

  • Help a family member with homework or volunteer to tutor at an after-school program
  • Help a neighbor with yard work or snow removal
  • Coach youth sports
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Let someone in line go in front of you
  • Check in on a friend who might be going through a rough patch

Big or small, find ways to volunteer to help enhance the well-being of yourself and others.

Joy

What's great about joy, or any positive emotion, is that it doesn't just make you happier in the moment: It's important for your well-being in the long term too. Joy helps you to be more creative, open to new experiences, and resilient in the face of adversity. Here are some ways to spread joy to others.

Be an Excitement Magnifier

When a person experiences something they're excited about, it's human nature to want to share that experience with others. When someone chooses to share their excitement with you this holiday season, make a conscious effort to be fully present and share in their joy—and if you can, get them even more excited. When you gift your time and energy to help others savor their positive experiences, it boosts their well-being and yours too. It also increases trust and intimacy and decreases the amount of conflict in your relationship. Read HPRC's article for tips on how to be an Excitement Magnifier. Also, take the lead in magnifying others' joy by asking, "What's the most exciting thing that's happened since the last time I saw you?"

Be Elf, not the Grinch

Holidays can be hectic. As financial stress, travel stress, work stress, and family stress build up, it makes sense why you might catch yourself saying, "Bah humbug," and wishing the holiday season away. The good news is that joy is contagious! So, by trying to gift those in your presence with the "elf" in you (happy, excited, and friendly), rather than the "grinch" (tired, cranky, and mean), you'll increase their joy as well. Take it up a notch and make a point to highlight the good as you notice others struggling to stay cheerful too.

"It's the thought that counts" is a common saying when it comes to gift giving. By taking the time to think through how you can gift friends and loved ones with gratitude, kindness, and joy, you'll increase the well-being of others and yourself.

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Last Updated: January 31, 2023
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