Ashbourne News Telegraph - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

WITH Christ­mas on the hori­zon, many of us will be spend­ing time and money over the com­ing weeks buy­ing gifts for our friends and loved ones.

There are lots of reasons why we give gifts, not least be­cause it is a way of strength­en­ing our bonds with oth­ers.

In giv­ing gifts we can com­mu­ni­cate an aw­ful lot: how we feel about a per­son; how well we know them, and what they mean to us.

In giv­ing a gift we are ex­press­ing how we per­ceive that re­la­tion­ship and hop­ing that the re­ceiver un­der­stands the mes­sage we are try­ing to con­vey.

When we get it right, this can in­crease our sense of con­nec­tion to oth­ers and im­prove our re­la­tion­ships.

A look at the re­search on the psy­chol­ogy of gift giv­ing tells us one thing for sure: giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing gifts makes peo­ple happy.

Givers get an in­creased sense of sat­is­fac­tion, pur­pose and feel more pos­i­tive about their own lives, while re­ceivers also get a boost to their wellbeing.

Per­haps partly due to the moodlift­ing en­dor­phins that giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing gifts re­leases in our brains, sev­eral stud­ies have found that gift giv­ing is con­ta­gious.

Re­ceivers of gifts are more likely to go on to give gifts them­selves, as are peo­ple who wit­ness gift giv­ing in ac­tion.

Here are my tips for en­hanc­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing gifts this Christ­mas.

■ Give ex­pe­ri­ences rather than ob­jects – Pur­chas­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence gives you the op­por­tu­nity to share your un­der­stand­ing of the other per­son’s likes, in­ter­ests and what makes them happy.

Last­ing mem­o­ries of an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence can be much more mean­ing­ful than a ma­te­rial ob­ject that sits gath­er­ing dust on the shelf once the nov­elty has worn off.

■ Give gifts that save time – This can be par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful for peo­ple who have very busy life­styles. Stud­ies have shown that pur­chases that save peo­ple time, such as gad­gets or ser­vices, can have the greatest im­pact on wellbeing.

■ Pay at­ten­tion to the de­tail – Tak­ing the time to choose wrap­ping pa­per, a card and en­ve­lope that also con­veys your con­nec­tion to the per­son will en­hance the mood­boost­ing ef­fect of your gift.

Writ­ing a per­son­alised mes­sage ref­er­enc­ing shared mem­o­ries, per­sonal ties or the reasons be­hind your gift give an added per­sonal touch.

Dr El­lie Milby is a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist

Giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing gifts makes peo­ple happy

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