The holidays are a time of gift giving, and it is common to struggle to think of just the right gift for your loved ones and friends. Many times we end up buying something out of desperation that we are not even sure the person will like, just because we felt obligated to purchase something. We have all been on the receiving end of this type of iffy, last-minute gift, too, which we graciously accept while knowing we will never ever use it. It feels wonderful to be proud of the gift that you have given someone. The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful and personal, and so, with that in mind, I have compiled a list of gift ideas that fall into that category — whole also being mental health friendly!

The Gift of Time

We all know that money cannot buy happiness — this is true. However, studies have shown that if you can buy time, you can in fact increase happiness. So, how do you buy time for someone else? It is easier than you might think. Examples include:


  • Food: We spend a lot of time and money planning and preparing food. You can gift several freezer meals, or make a commitment to provide 1 meal a month for the rest of the year. You could also purchase a subscription to a meal delivery service, if such an option is in your budget.
  • Cleaning: You can offer to clean someone else’s home, garage, office, do some laundry, etc. This could be a one time offer, or perhaps a few times during the year. Or you could pay for a cleaning service to clean the person’s home. (Be sure that you know the person would appreciate this gift, rather than be offended, or else this one could backfire.)
  • Lawn care: Americans spend an unusual amount of time taking care of their lawns; some people enjoy it, but many don’t. You can gift your own services and offer to mow their lawn, weed their garden, rake their leaves, etc. This can be a one time gift, or you can offer to do it several times. For a more expensive option, you could pay a lawn service to do this for someone.
  • Child care or pet care: We spend a lot of time and money arranging for other people to care for our children, and even our pets. You can offer your own services for a one time arrangement, or multiple times during the year. You could also offer to pay for these services if that would fit in your budget.
  • Errands: You can save someone lots of time by offering to complete some of these for them, such as grocery shopping, dry cleaning, picking up the kids from school/activities, taking their car to get an oil change, getting their dog groomed, etc. There are endless possibilities here!

In terms of presentation, you can gift your time by making a “coupon” (or several coupons) and wrapping it up in a gift. Or, if you decide to pay for a service, simply print out the receipt and wrap it up. These things will be greatly appreciated.

The Gift of Quality Time

A key component to mental wellness is spending quality time with the people whom you enjoy being around. In fact, quality time is even a “love language” for some people, which means that quality time is the primary indicator that someone cares for them. There are endless ways to gift someone quality time. Some examples include tickets to go places together, the movies, sporting events, a trip to go ice skating, a gift card for a nice dinner, etc. If your budget is a little tight, you can provide coupons for a movie night on the couch, a candle-lit dinner in, a day for hiking to a new place, etc. Any way to spend time together is a great idea.

Within the category of quality time includes gifts that foster a sense of belonging and connection. This could mean taking the time to teach someone a skill (like a family recipe or how to change their oil). You could teach them a new hobby that they could build upon such as knitting, cake decorating, or working on cars.

The Gift of Experiences

concert tickets

Oftentimes gifts go unused and unappreciated. Most of us already have way too many “things” anyway, Experiences are a great way to give a gift that won’t be forgotten a week later. Some examples include the quality time examples from above, but could also include experiences like a museum membership; skydiving (indoor or outdoor!); a trip or getaway; season passes to a local attraction. It is helpful to start with what the person likes to do, and go from there: maybe they enjoy theater, so tickets to a local show would be great; or maybe they love llamas, and a trip to a nearby llama farm would be something fun and memorable.
More examples include a concert to see their favorite band or renting a boat for a day on the lake if they love being on the water — there are countless options for experiences to be had!

The best gifts are not bought from a store or from amazon. Challenge yourself this year to expand your beliefs about gift-giving and be more intentional about this tradition. Use this opportunity to show others that you care for them, and give a gift that will be beneficial for their mental health and wellness! Also, giving to others is proven to produce positive feelings in the giver, so take advantage of that and give gifts that you are proud of!

By: Julie Killion, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor – Wake Forest


The holidays can be difficult for many struggling with depression or anxiety. If you or a loved one are feeling hopeless, lonely, or anxious, please consider seeking care.


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