CHICAGO—December 18, 2014—Looking for an affordable holiday gift that your loved ones will remember and appreciate for many days to come?
Consider the gift of fellowship, says IIT Chicago-Kent Professor Christopher Buccafusco, a co-author of Happiness and the Law.
“Spending time with family and friends in social settings receives among the highest happiness ratings,” offers Buccafusco. “Overall social time is highly predictive of general life satisfaction.”
Buccafusco notes that many holiday gifts provide only transient joy—perhaps a little fun and surprise when unwrapping the gift, then rapidly decreasing enjoyment over the next several days and weeks.
“I’d guess that the moment-by-moment happiness that children experience in the days after Christmas returns to pre-holiday levels pretty rapidly,” he says. “Having spent hundreds of dollars on your children, are they any happier on January 20 than they were on December 20?”
The key to a “happiness-boosting” gift is the sustained joy the recipient feels when anticipating the gift, actually receiving the gift, and remembering the experience afterwards, says Buccafusco.
To prolong holiday happiness for children, try mixing gifts of special toys or games with festive cards promising afternoons together at the playground, visits to a favorite ice cream parlor, or walks together after dinner. For adults, try holiday cards or letters inviting your loved one out to lunch or to visit a favorite museum or nature site with you.
“Forget the focus on fancy gifts and must-have toys and find ways to spend enjoyable time with the people you care about,” says Buccafusco. “If you do decide to purchase normal gifts, look for items that promise little jolts of pleasure when used by the recipient. A slightly larger television or a once-read book are quickly adapted to.”
Buccafusco, who admits his tastes are idiosyncratic, reports, “I love grabbing a funny coffee mug out of the cupboard or pulling colorful socks out of my drawer.”