Give Yourself What You Really Want

Give Yourself What You Really Wanted

Gifts come in all sizes, but they (mostly) all bring joy. Here's how to get some of that joy for yourself.. Tiina & Geir/Cultura/Getty Images

 If you just finished celebrating holidays or a birthday, I hope you got everything that was on your wish list (or will get it soon). There is a huge variety of things people have on their wish lists, but there are a few things that virtually everyone wants, and can't be found on most lists: more good feelings, and fewer bad ones; great memories, connection with others, and perhaps less stress.  (In fact, the bulk of what we want the most in life can't be purchased and gifted, of course, though I love getting thoughtful "stuff" as much as anyone!)

Some of the most valuable gifts I can give you are simple ways to give yourself the best of what life has to offer: good feelings and life satisfaction. (And the best part is that when you give these things to yourself, you tend to naturally have enough to share!)  If after reading this, you still really want the thing you were longing for that you may not have gotten, by all means, you can get that for yourself, too!  But you may want to give yourself some of the following as well, so read on!

It All Boils Down To Positive Feelings: Why They Matter

Mother and child laughing in a park
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Much of what people want in life are feelings of happiness.  When we think of gifts, other than purely functional gifts, a lot of what we love about gifts is the way we feel when we receive them.  These good feelings are good for us beyond just the pleasure they bring in the moment.  Some research has shown that positive feelings and moods--also known as positive affectivity--are linked with an increase in resilience toward stress, and an increase in life satisfaction.   

Engaging in activities that are known to bring good feelings can be a way to bypass the gift part and make a beeline to the end result: a bump in happiness.  We don't always think of activities as gifts to ourselves, but taking on a habit that brings a bit of added joy into your life absolutely can bring the same level of increased positive feelings that come from a good gift.  These "shortcuts to happiness" are based on research-proven techniques. Find out how to lift your mood and feel good quickly and easily.

Connection With Others: The Real Gift Behind Most Gifts

Laughing woman with man
Feeling connected to others is one of life's best experiences--and one of the most important.. Hoxton/Tom Merton/Hoxton/Getty Images

When you think about it, most gifts are expressions of knowing and caring about another person.  The gift itself is a token of the giver's feelings, and the gift itself is great, but the connection you feel to someone giving you a gift is a big part of what's great about receiving.  We may not always think of it, but, because it's the thought that counts, simply cultivating greater connection in our relationships can give some of those feelings that you get from a really great gift.  So if you're left wanting a little more, you may be longing for more connection, and that's something you can create.

If you set a goal for having more connection to others in your life, there are a few ways to go about meeting this goal.  You can get out and meet more people to connect with.  You can improve your existing relationships, including those where there's a little friction (or a lot).  And you can do what feels really great: spend more time with those who make you feel truly happy and accepted.  

Greater Life Satisfaction: Something That Really Matters

Happy bike rider
Many hobbies can bring greater life satisfaction.. Cultura RM Exclusive/Edwin Jimenez/Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

 If you're looking for ways to feel less stressed quickly, these strategies work within five minutes and can make a significant impact on your stress levels. (For a longer-term game plan, see this article.)

Much of what we want when we look forward to receiving something is a fun experience or something useful--something to help us enjoy our lives a little more. Focusing on making these experiences part of life can increase overall life satisfaction, not just bring a fun lift to our mood.  So if you find that your hopes in gifts tend toward certain patterns, consider changing your life a little bit and getting more of these wishes fulfilled on a daily basis.

For example, if you wanted something fun (like a game or something frivolous), you may want to make plans more often to have fun and play games with friends, or pursue hobbies that you really enjoy.  If you wanted something for your home, you may want to focus on organizing your home, decluttering, and making it into more of a haven from stress using what you already have.  If you like clothes that make you look nice, you may also want to create or maintain habits that enhance your body's health and fitness, like exercise, so you can look and feel better in the clothes you have.  When you find yourself thinking along these lines, you may also feel more grateful for what you already have, which can help you to feel less stressed as well. 

Great Memories: Something You Can Always Come Back To

Excitement can be a healthy form of stress.
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The things that people give us can become worn out, used up, or broken, but the memories attached can live on forever.  In fact, research suggests that it's much better to invest in memorable experiences than in items themselves; in this case, the intangibles are greater than tangible things.  One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to cultivate positive memories, and savor them when you need an emotional lift.  Fortunately, there are several ways to do this.

You may want to actively create fun memories by seeing friends more often, pushing yourself to enjoy adventures and activities that are outside of your routine (or even your comfort zone), and by recording your memories in a journal, especially a gratitude journal.

Once you've created great memories, you can go back and savor them, keeping the good things in life in the forefront of your mind.  One of the benefits of this approach is that it helps you to be more aware of everything that's good in your life.  Another is that this focus on the positive can actually help you to become more resilient toward stress.  There's even research that suggests the happiness brought by savoring positive memories is good for your health.

Less Stress--Or More Resilience Toward It

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 While the absence of stress isn't the most important thing to pursue in life, too much stress can absolutely rob you of joy.  When you experience a surplus of unmanaged stress, you can actually be more susceptible to illnesses of all kinds, to negative emotional experiences like anxiety and depression, and you can experience decreased life satisfaction.  And though you may not be able to banish all of the stress from your life, you can absolutely develop habits that make it easier to manage, and that build your resilience toward it.  And you can cut out the stress where possible.  

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