Holiday shopping is usually accompanied by an overwhelming amount of stress — if you’re not busy preparing for dramatic family get-togethers, you’re filling your online shopping cart with presents for all those relatives you only see a couple times a year. But in the midst of making your list and checking it twice, there’s probably one name you always forget to include: your own.
That’s right. This year, you should get yourself a present for the holidays.
Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We’ve had a rough couple of years. A September 2020 survey of over 2,000 U.S. college students found that over 71% of respondents indicated increased stress and anxiety levels during the pandemic, and less than half reported that they had adequate coping strategies for the situation.
That’s why showing yourself some love is so important, because gift-giving actually has mental health benefits. According to Psychology Today, gift-giving stimulates neural networks in our brain — the same ones that react to sensations of physical pleasure. Becoming both the giver and receiver creates a kind of two-for-one, as The Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds explained that brain activity in neural regions associated with reward are activated both when giving and receiving gifts. To quote living legend Hannah Montana, it’s truly the best of both worlds.
Giving to other people can feel good for those relationships because you’re showing them that you care about them and the act of choosing a gift helps you to understand that person better. But giving to yourself is a way of putting equal stock into your relationship with yourself and your understanding of what you need, something that we often ignore or brush aside, especially around the holidays when we’re too busy planning to meet up with family and connect with others.
It’s true that the self-care industry has become synonymous with shelling out for wellness products that are more often than not thinly veiled cash grabs, and the “treat yourself” mentality has taken a sharp left turn into excessive spending and consumption. But the spirit of the idea has its heart in the right place. Even if gift-giving isn’t your love language, or you’ve already spent your limited college budget on presents for all your extended family members, there are other ways to do something nice for yourself this holiday season. You can write yourself a heartfelt letter, or block off a day in your calendar to spend by yourself, because taking yourself on a date can help you reconnect with those inner thoughts and feelings that get lost among the holiday chaos.
Simply put, the holidays are a time to remember how much joy the people you love can bring you. And you should always be one of those people you love; after all, your relatives might fly home after the holidays are over, but you’re living and growing with yourself 365 days a year. There’s nobody more important in your life who deserves to be treated.