Gift Ideas: 10 Ways to Give Health and Happiness

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Still looking for that perfect gift for a dear friend or family member? Why not try gifting your loved ones with health and happiness this year?

Okay, we know that you can’t wrap those things up and tie them with a bow. However, your gifts can directly support experiences that are proven to create positive emotions and enhance physical well-being.

Here are 10 ideas that are perfect for teens, adults, and even the whole family.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

Yoga classes

Yoga is a powerful tool for promoting teen mental health—naturally. This ancient practice is surprisingly effective. It enhances health and well-being, protects against substance abuse, and helps teens learn self-care. Equally important, yoga relieves stress and calms the nervous system.

Moroever, yoga practice improves physical fitness, strengthens the respiratory system, and allows teens to develop mastery. Therefore, this increases self-esteem.

Yoga studios typically offer gift certificates, a series of classes, or a punch card. In fact, this is the perfect present for loved ones who wouldn’t try necessarily yoga on their own, but are curious and willing to try. Or you can buy classes for the whole family, and make it a new family tradition!

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

A guided outdoor experience

A trained nature guide can open your eyes to new ways of experiencing your local environment—even if you’re in a state park or on a trail that you’ve been to many times before. Consider hiring a guide to help the whole family explore a favorite spot—or discover a new one.

Spending time in nature can improve mental health in a number of ways. For one, time outdoors has been shown to decrease levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Moreover, being outside in nature is proven to reduce stress by lowering the stress-associated chemical cortisol.

Furthermore, research has found that experiencing awe, such as one might feel while immersed in a lush forest or surveying a scenic mountain landscape, can encourage more generous, positive social behaviors. Additionally, it helps us focus us on something bigger than ourselves.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

Great books

There are so many great books out there that not only tell intriguing stories, but also inspire us. Our favorite books include memoirs and non-fiction in which amazing teachers open up about their own struggles and their journey to a happier life.

Here are 10 of our top picks, plus ways to get the whole family reading.

A gym membership

Regular exercise is one of the most powerful natural ways to lift mood, enhance self-esteem, and combat stress. Specifically, exercise improves well-being and positive outlook by impacting serotonin levels. As a result, it can even be as effective as antidepressants.

However, exercising regularly requires creating a habit. Therefore, we need encouragement and incentive to start building it into our daily routine. Thus, a gift of a gym membership provides a jump-start for your loved one.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

Meditation in a box

Mindfulness has numerous positive effects on well-being and can be used as a powerful intervention for teens. It can increase empathy and happiness and improve attention.

Furthermore, as with exercise, scientists have shown that meditation can be just as effective as medication for depression: One study found that meditation had the same impact on anxiety and depression as antidepressants did.

You can help your teenager or another family member or friend get started with a meditation practice. Create a gift package that includes a meditation cushion or bench, a book on meditation, and/or a guided meditation CD. You can even include a cozy meditation blanket with a hood!

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

Opportunities for artistic expression

Being creative makes us happier. A recent study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology showed that getting in the zone with a creative project has a way of lifting your mood. Researchers followed more than 650 young adults to track the correlation between their everyday activities and their emotional state. Not surprisingly, they experienced greater flourishing and positivity on the days following increased creativity.

Therefore, a gift of a creative experience is great for everyone, including teens. Check out local art schools for workshops and classes in visual art, ceramics, photography, jewelry making, and more.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

Massage, Reiki, or another bodywork modality

A gift certificate for a bodywork session is a great present for just about anyone. Not only is it a special treat, it also supports greater health and happiness.

Research shows that massage helps relieve anxiety, stress-related insomnia, headaches, digestive disorders, and muscle tension, among other conditions. Moreover, there are many other bodywork modalities that offer similar benefits. These include Reiki, shiatsu, energy work, reflexology, and aromatherapy.

Cooking lessons

Learning to cook and eat well is vital for health and well-being. In addition, nurturing yourself and others with good food boosts mental health. Furthermore, as mentioned above, creative activities like cooking support enhanced well-being.

Many kitchen supply stores and catering companies offer cooking classes for home cooks. Typically, a class will have a specific theme, such as an individual food or the traditional cuisine of a particular country. It’s especially fun to take a class with one or more friends or family members.

Read “The Meal as Medicine: Nutrition and Mental Health.”

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

A gratitude letter

Positive psychologist Martin Seligman developed a happiness-boosting exercise called the gratitude letter. It involves writing, delivering, and reading a letter of gratitude to someone whose life enriched yours. Furthermore, Seligman’s research found that study participants who wrote gratitude letters had an immediate increase in happiness scores.

Therefore, writing a gratitude letter is also a gift to yourself. Moreover, it can be written to anyone—a child, a parent, a friend, a colleague, even an acquaintance—anyone who brightens your life.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts

A day together

What better present could there be than spending time with someone you love? It’s the most powerful way to strengthen your relationships and create authentic connection. Commit to clearing your schedule, unplugging, and designing a day that’s exactly right for the two of you—or for the whole family.

Being with people who truly see us and support us is an essential key to happiness—and it’s also the best way to celebrate. Happy Holidays!

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Holiday Gifts


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J Pos Psych. Vol. 13, 2018, Issue