Home » No-Wrap, No-Waste, Non-Materialistic, Somewhat Intimate, Happiness Trio, Best Loved Christmas Gifts

No-Wrap, No-Waste, Non-Materialistic, Somewhat Intimate, Happiness Trio, Best Loved Christmas Gifts

The most loved and memorable Christmas gifts I ever gave or received weren’t made of plastic. I didn’t have to stand on line to purchase them, most didn’t even have to be wrapped. Unlike ninety-something percent of the manufactured stuff that we buy, they didn’t take up space in a landfill rotting, or worse, refusing for all eternity to rot.

Curious? Before I throw cold water on the spirit of stuff-giving, consider why we give people gifts. We want them to experience joy, right? But does so much stuff bring lasting happiness? In a Black Friday conversation I had with Psychologist Tim Kasser a few years back, he revealed to me the three things that, according to the research, make people truly happy. (Can you guess that stuff wasn’t among them?)

Ok, I’ll tell you about the gifts and how they relate to the happiness trio.

I took this photo in Montauk many years ago. Lisa DeLuca

I took this photo in Montauk many years ago. Lisa DeLuca

The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

The best gift I ever received was a private art lesson with a local artist. I was a “closet artist” and though I always wanted to “do” art I never, ever gave myself permission. To have someone care enough to even recognize and know this about me, and then buy me the art lesson….it was very touching. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and painted a picture of a sunset based on a photograph I had taken. It was my first painting ever and I am very proud of that canvas, no matter how amateurish it looks to everyone else.

Here is the painting I did. Lisa C. DeLuca

Here is the painting I did. Lisa C. DeLuca

What Makes People Happy

The conversation with Kasser can explain why I loved this gift so much, because the gift hit on all three things in the happiness trio. So here they are, (finally) the three things that give people lasting happiness in life:

  1. Self acceptance: spending time pursuing and following your own interests and passions,
  2. Affiliation: having close interpersonal relationships with family, friends and lovers,
  3. A feeling of community, where you can try to make the world a better place.

The gift of the art class enabled me to spend time doing something I was drawn to but had never done. It ended up being the first of many art adventures (a gift that keeps on giving?) It also spoke to the second item on the trio, it was an expression of love from someone and it allowed me to form a relationship with a new person, the artist. To top it off, the class was purchased at an auction where all proceeds benefited a charity doing good work in the local community, item three on the list. It was a win, win, win.

So this year as you shop, think outside the box, literally. Here are some of the most loved gifts I’ve given and received that also relate to the happiness trio. Please add your non-materialistic, green living, or happiness trio gift ideas and stories to the comments.

My Best Loved Gifts List

  • My father loved being at sea when he was in the Navy and always wanted his own boat. Yet he never even gave himself permission to spend the money to charter a day trip. I bought him a day at sea on a friend’s launch. He loved it.
  • Do you have a friend who always wanted to play the clarinet but needs help getting over the resistance? Go rent him a clarinet from the local music store. Even if he doesn’t sign up for lessons, at the very least, he will be able to play around with it for a month or two.
  • For my 30th birthday I received a djembe drum. I had been to a drumming show where they let audience members come up and play the drums. I loved it, and I loved getting this drum as a gift. I’ve hauled it with me to several drumming circles since. This also inspired my friend to ask for (and receive) an electric guitar for her 40th birthday. Fun!
  • I knew my Dad always wanted to learn to speak Italian, so I signed him up for an online course. Ironically, this made him speechless. I’ll take that as a “like”.


The certificate I presented to my Dad.

The certificate I presented to my Dad.

Gifts like these are more personal than a lot of the things we buy for people, because they say something about who the gift recipient is. And even though a drum and a guitar do qualify as “stuff” if they allow you to spend time learning something new, doing what you love, developing your talents…that is what brings satisfaction.

It is often hard for people to “indulge” themselves and their interests on their own, so doing it for them has an impact. Kasser noted that people fall into the habit of just going shopping for stuff to try to make themselves happy because it’s easier than pursuing passions. But in the end, it’s not nearly as satisfying a life choice.

Other Gifts that Involve Time Together and Human-to-Human Contact

  • We once all chipped in and gave a family member a ride in a limousine for an evening out, which we all attended and enjoyed.
  • I once added up how much I spend on my parents’ anniversary, birthdays, mothers days, fathers days, Christmas, and instead of buying gifts for those occasions, rented them a room in a nice hotel with a pool near me for a few days in summer. We had a wonderful visit.
  • My husband is a total foodie who also loves to cook. I invited my friend, who was a trained chef, over to our house to cook and serve him and I a fantastic meal on his birthday. My husband even got some pointers on seasonings and spice ideas while the sea bass was sizzling on the stove. He loved this gift.

You don’t have to spend money to be creative. If you like to drive, cook, shop, decorate, clean, whatever it is, offer it as a gift to someone you know needs it.

  • A friend of mine who is great at fashion (something I struggle with) became my personal clothes shopping consultant for a day (just like Stacey and Clinton, but this was before What Not to Wear aired on TV.) I learned so much from her in that day! It was a wonderful gift.

Investments as Gifts

Consider investing in peoples’ college savings funds, or items that both educate and grow in value like coin or stamp collecting – it’s very different than throwing money away on junk.

All health-related items make great green gifts. Gift certificates for massages, yoga classes, organic foods which can be more expensive, local farmstands and fresh fruit and vegetable cooperatives are great. Sometimes people won’t spend the extra money to invest in their health, someone else has to.

I’d love to hear about gifts you’ve given and received that were big hits. Do they align with the happiness trio? Share your thoughts in the comments:-)

© Lisa C. DeLuca, 2012, all rights reserved.  It is a violation of copyright law to reproduce this work on the web or for business use without permission from the author. This article was originally published on the web on December 4, 2012. Please contact the author with your reprint request.


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