What is Make a Gift Day?
Celebrated on December 3 each year, Make a Gift Day is the unofficial holiday that encourages people to create gifts for their loved ones, instead of relying on ready-made manufactured goods.
The Effects of Gift-Giving on Mental-Health
Gift-giving is an act that makes one feel good internally and often has extrinsic benefits as well. First, there is often a sense of satisfaction one gets when seeing someone’s expression as you give them a gift. The look on the recipient’s face provides a psychological lift to the giver and triggers the release of endorphins into their brain, producing euphoric feelings of pleasure and joy. Gift-giving can also elicit feelings of gratitude in both the giver and recipient, and gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. A study conducted by Lambert et al. (2010), found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or colleague strengthens our sense of connection to that person. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others reinforcing positive social interactions. Positive social interactions are central to good mental and physical health (Lambert et al., 2017).
Furthermore, gift-giving is a way to express one’s feelings and it reinforces appreciation and acknowledgment of each other. A 2020 study by Balconi et al., found that while both giving and receiving presents stimulate the reward regions of our brains, gift-giving alone activates a part of the brain that causes people to like and appreciate each other more. Consequently, the act of gift-giving can strengthen one’s social relationships, which are a key part of mental health (Balconi et al., 2020). Finally, there is usually a form of reciprocity that occurs with gift-giving, i.e., gift-giving begets gift-giving; thus, creating positive extrinsic rewards. Thus, overall, gift-giving seems to cause feelings of well-being, gratitude, generosity, and connectedness.
While these positive psychological effects are seen for giving gifts of any type, homemade gifts have the added benefit of strengthening the personalization of social interactions, thereby potentially increasing feelings of appreciation, gratitude, and well-being. That is, there is the chance to further demonstrate your acknowledgment and care for that person through personalized touches and the added time commitment. Furthermore, the act of creating something has additional internal benefits for yourself. For example, creating something oneself increases one’s sense of mastery. This sense of mastery is internally rewarding as it boosts self-efficacy or belief in one’s capabilities. Additionally, choosing an activity that is pleasurable to create the gift increases feelings of reward and joy while creating the gift. Taken together, both of these factors support one’s internal motivation to continue these types of productive behaviors by reinforcing positive feelings.
How to Participate in Make a Gift Day
Make A Gift Day encourages everyone to try their hand at creating something that can be given as a gift, no matter what it is. It is an opportunity to turn one’s skills or passions into a precious gift, or even a chance to go out and learn a new skill, such as knitting, pottery, or baking. Thus, visit your local craft store, search for those “how to” tutorials, host a gift-making party, look on social media for inspiration, and try out that recipe you have been thinking about now for weeks!
Mental Health Counselor
Balconi, M., Fronda, G., Vanutelli, M. (2019). A gift for gratitude and cooperative behavior: brain and cognitive effects. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(12), 1317-1327. Doi: 10.1093/scan/nsaa003
Lambert, N., Clark, M., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F., & Graham, S. (2010). Benefits of Expressing
Gratitude: Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Changes One’s View of the Relationship. Psychological Science, 1-7. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610364003
McGee, J. (2021, January 1). Science Says: Gifting is Good for You. Cultivate. https://blog.cultivatepcg.com/blog/science-says-gifting-is-good-for-you
National Today. (2017). Make a Gift Day- December 3, 2022. National Today. https://nationaltoday.com/make-a-gift-day/#:~:text=U.S.,relying%20on%20ready%2Dmade%20goods.