Exercise Generosity: 7 Gifts That Feel Good to Give

By Marilynn Preston

December 11, 2018 5 min read

If you're still struggling with your holiday gift list, help is on the way. I've got a lot of swell ideas for you this year, none of them digital or a novelty watch with a dancing Rudolph.

—YOU FIRST. This year, follow the wisdom of the Shopping Bodhisattva and give yourself the gift of not overspending. Debt equals stress. If the gifts I'm suggesting are beyond your budget, give hugs. Or bake banana bread. Or do what I did when I was a kid: Make up your own coupon good for a foot rub, car wash or three nights of kitchen cleanup.

(Action Alert: The personal service coupon — a gift I still love to give and receive — could involve finding scissors and cardboard. If you just want to take a piece of plain paper and scribble "This coupon is good for one jar of my homemade lentil-and-spinach soup," be my guest.)

—BODY WORK. Is anyone in your life suffering from aches and pains, stress and strain? Ho-ho-who isn't?

A good massage — whatever style, from Swedish to shiatsu — will do wonders to ease muscle tension, energize the body and refresh the mind.

That's why my favorite way of giving this gift is to book two massages at the same time — one for your dear one, one for you — and then go out afterward for a celebratory meal and an intimate discussion of the meaning of life.

Kick off your conversation with this quote from the Dalai Lama: "I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy."

A variation on this give-pleasure theme is a pedicure, manicure, reflexology session or any sort of body attention that gives you joy in the moment.

—TIME WITH A MASTER. This one always scores. Offer your fitness-minded loved ones a private lesson or two in yoga, golf, swimming, tennis, running or dancing — whatever activity delights them most. Even one hour or one lesson can boost enthusiasm and jump-start new goals for the new year. To add on, volunteer to video the lesson so your gift can keep on giving. One-on-one coaching is an especially fabulous gift for kids — not as good as a puppy, but still.

—A BASKET OF GOODIES. Consumables make a delicious gift, but don't settle for the typical holiday basket of creepy fruitcakes or overly processed meats. Let your handpicked basket be a reflection of your tastiest understanding of real food: organic fruits and nuts; great cheeses; dips and salsas with chips; high-quality organic oils and vinegars; fine wines and sparkling waters. You get the idea. Now go get a basket and have your best time filling it up.

—DONATE IN THEIR HONOR. Conscious giving is so trendy. Good! Why throw away your money on another silly tie when you can honor someone you love by buying some goats or chickens for struggling farmers (heifer.org), helping save lives in troubled areas around the world (doctorswithoutborders.org) or introducing girls in tough neighborhoods to the joys of playing sports, eating smart and learning to be leaders?

This last one (girlsinthegame.org) is one of my favorite nonprofits because it motivates girls to be strong, to be healthy and to believe in themselves. (Full disclosure: I was the founding chair of Girls in the Game and still cheerlead for their continued success. If that prompts you to press the donate button, a kiss on your cheek.)

—FITNESS GEAR. The range of at-home equipment is staggering — from $3,500 treadmills to $15 jump ropes — so a gift certificate to a well-stocked sports store makes the most sense. If you end up choosing the gear yourself — they can always exchange it — don't scrimp on quality. Junky fitness gear is no bargain. Ever.

—THE GIFT OF TIME. Make a holiday plan to treat your loved one to a shared adventure that you know will be fun: a hike in the woods, a day of cross-country skiing, a three-hour cooking class focused on easy-to-make winter soups.

Is there a nicer way to say "I love you, I care about you and I want you to be happy" than spending time with a dear one? Why do I think you don't convey that feeling with a pair of fingerless gloves?


"Ultimately, acts of generosity strengthen our feeling of interconnectedness with the rest of the world. Sooner or later, we see that giving to others is really giving to ourselves." — Sally Kempton

Marilynn Preston is the author of "Energy Express," America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new Amazon best-seller "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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