The pressure of giving during the holiday season can be extremely stressful. This year may be worse for some with the prices of consumer goods at all-time highs.
But we have gifts to offer that cost nothing and are especially valuable after the recent years of separation and isolation. These gifts help others live longer, healthier lives.
Read on for the 10 best gifts you can give, without spending a cent.
10 Free Gifts that Can Improve Lives
Without spending money, we have many gifts to offer. Sharing our time, energy, and expertise can improve the health of another as well as our own. Tons of research confirms the benefits of being together for exercise, meals, emotional support, and fun. When we’re with others, we are more likely to stick to a workout plan, eat healthier, feel happier, and be in overall better health.
Socializing is increasingly pivotal in our senior years because it thwarts depression and illness, keeps our brains sharp and nimble, and can help us live longer. Yet the most rewarding reason to give your time to another may be that it just feels great.
Here are 10 ways to give of yourself this holiday season and year-round.
1. Be a Workout Partner
Exercise is amazing for our body and minds. With a partner or group, we’re more motivated to exercise, exercise more often, have more fun, and might even push ourselves harder – especially if the exercise partner is emotionally supportive. Seniors report fewer health problems when they exercise with others regularly, even if only once or twice a week!
2. Challenge Them to a Game
Playing games is exercise for the brain. For all ages, playing games – both board and video – increases brain function, improving memory and cognitive skills. Studies show that playing games can also help prevent and treat depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dementia. Additionally, playing games helps protect us from cognitive decline as we age, whether we like Super Mario or Monopoly. Moreover, the joy we get from these competitions enhances our immune systems.
3. Give Expertise
Most people have something, if not a few things, that they find frustrating or puzzling. Often times, we’ll avoid these things even when they’re important. Gifting expertise to another can alleviate stress, solve problems, and impart people with lasting knowledge. Maybe you’re a whiz with technology, vehicles, house repairs, or finances. Maybe talking on the phone is easy even if it’s a customer service call. Someone you know probably dislikes or gets totally overwhelmed with one of these or a similar challenge. Your expertise is truly a gift to them!
4. Share a Meal
Eating together is a healthy choice for families, couples, colleagues, and new acquaintances. Sharing meals strengthens relationships, improves communication, helps us eat healthier, reduces weight gain (compared to eating alone), reduces depression, and gives us new perspectives. For children and teens, family meals foster connection, improve self-esteem, build good eating habits, and prevent psychosocial issues.
Research shows that people who eat alone have higher rates of depression. Many seniors say they feel loneliest when dining alone. Conversely, people who often eat with others say they feel happier, more trusting, and more engaged with their community. Know someone who eats alone often? Cook with them, invite them to a family meal, or set a habitual lunch date.
5. Offer a Ride
Some people don’t drive. Others are always the driver and never get to enjoy the scenery. We may have a health appointment or eye exam that requires a ride home. Whether for healthcare or a tour of holiday lights, a ride is a gift easily overlooked.
6. Share a Letter or Video
Writing or recording a memory, admiration, praise, or love for another person creates a treasured keepsake. Creating these mementos lifts our mood and deepens our connection with the recipient. If you prefer, send a photo, collage, or work of art expressing the same sentiments.
7. Teach a Music Lesson
Learning new skills strengthens neural connections, improving brain health and memory. Like playing games, learning a musical instrument benefits young and old. Offering a music lesson may be less intimidating than taking a lesson from a stranger. It may inspire them to take ongoing lessons as well. Playing music has a multitude of health benefits including reducing stress and depression, increasing blood flow to the brain, and helping stroke victims recover.
8. Offer a Recommendation
The world has a lot to offer, but it’s impossible to know all best things. That’s why a recommendation is a fabulous gift. Share a favorite podcast, book, restaurant, playlist, online service, or even a supplement company you swear by (wink, wink). Easy on the personal advice though, it’s best to ask before giving advice.
9. Offer a Favor
Similar to sharing expertise, offering a favor can remove dread, reduce stress, and give a person a break. However, a favor requires more willingness than profound knowledge. Offering to do something for someone – especially if they don’t like it or have the time – is a meaningful gift.
It can be difficult to ask for a favor, yet we would all likely accept one. A favor could be cleaning or organizing, moving heavy furniture, babysitting, or returning an item to a store. It could be more personal like painting their nails or walking their dog. Many people need help with a smart phone, online shopping, or even changing a light bulb. Seniors often need help with laundry, trash collection, and running errands. Not sure which favor to offer? Just ask.
10. Spend Time Together
We don’t necessarily need to do something for another, we can simply give our time. Friendships make us healthier, happier, and can extend our lives. People who feel lonely are more prone to depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Spending time with a friend can ease their burdens and their pain because it releases endorphins. It’s great if you’d like to do things mentioned above, yet just being around is enough. Your presence is a present.