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Self-gifting (or treating yourself) can help reduce stress and increase your happiness. Pixel Stories/Stocksy United
  • A new study found that self-gifting (or treating yourself) during stressful periods increases happiness and relaxation.
  • Time, money, and mental health pressures are the main factors for a lack of self-gifting.
  • Self-gifting can come in many forms.

As exciting, fun, and joyful as the holidays can be, it tends to be quite stressful for many people.

Individuals that feel pressured by work or home demands can find themselves in what feels like a never-ending cycle of stress and tension.

However, a new study has found that when stressed, tense people treated themselves with a small gift or indulgence, they were more relaxed, happier, and felt less crunched for time.

Ironically, the study also found that when people are tense, they are less likely to self-gift or treat themselves, believing they were too stressed to reap the benefits.

The key to getting out of the cycle of stress and tension, according to the research, is for individuals to recognize that it’s during that stressful time period when they need it the most.

Psychotherapist and registered social worker Danika Syrja-McNally MSW, RSW in Markham, Ontario, says she regularly observes this in her practice. In fact, she finds that clients are often burnt out and just trying to get through the day.

While it’s difficult to think of creating space for self-gifting, Syrja-McNally finds that when they do, they are less burnt out and more productive.

“As a psychotherapist, sometimes part of my work with clients is giving them permission to do something for themselves, and after that initial push, they see the benefits, and it gets easier to incorporate this into their regular routine,” she said.

It’s often said that time is our most valuable asset, once it’s gone, you can never get it back. It’s also one of our top stressors, most of us wish for more time, more money, and an abundance of energy.

The study found that time, money, and mental health pressures were the main factors preventing people from self-gifting.

When the researchers showed participants fictional ads of services or products with self-care or self-gifting taglines, it was participants who were stressed, short on time or lacking funds who showed the least interest in the services and products.

Those participants cited the inability to enjoy the experience of self-gifting due to busy schedules, tight budgets, or long to-do lists.

Researchers hypothesized this thinking was counterproductive and followed up the studies by analyzing the effects of self-gifting activities on those participants.

The overall effect in choosing self-gifting was less stress, increased happiness and relaxation, and a feeling of being less squeezed for time.

CEO of Arrive Wellness, Jared Kaplan B.A. Wesleyan University, NASM-CPT, NCPT in New York City says, “simply acting on the decision to do something about your self-care creates a rush of dopamine (a ‘happy’ chemical generally known to trigger/reinforce rewards in the brain, or feeling good).”

“We know this anecdotally: to simply choose self-gifting (clicking ‘purchase’ for that thing you want, hitting ‘submit’ on a project or ‘send’ on that well-crafted email) creates a shift in mindset. If even before receiving a treatment or taking a class, you feel good for having made the decision, imagine the benefits of reinforced habits of self-care,” Kaplan added.

Self-gifting is typically known as the act of purchasing something for yourself, especially around the holidays.

Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote their own health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare worker.”

Self-care can be a form of self-gifting depending on the context and the needs of the individual.

Results from the study concluded that the best time for self-gifting is when you’re most stressed or under pressure.

That may seem counterintuitive at the time, but the research suggests it’s actually the most beneficial.

You might feel pressured to meet an expectation or have too much on your mind, but earlier studies have also shown the positive effects on physical and cognizant behavior from taking a break.

“How we feel about doing something when we’re highly stressed is very different than how we feel about the same thing when on vacation or feeling more relaxed. Pushing through resistance to do something we know we’ll ultimately benefit from is where the magic lies,” Kaplan said.

Money, or lack thereof, is a huge barrier to feeling at ease.

Self-gifting strictly from a consumer point of view can be limiting and inaccessible to many individuals.

Psychotherapist Syrja-McNally advises that “self-gifting does not need to be buying items, it can be taking their 30-minute break at work, arranging a time to go out for a walk or have a bath without kids, that can certainly feel like a gift.”

The possibilities for self-gifting are endless. Taking walks, stretching, taking 10 minutes to sit and enjoy your favorite beverage, or calling a friend may be just the break you need.

Kaplan suggests checking local listings for free events. Many cities and towns offer weekly classes to help improve public well-being.

You can also check your area for massage student clinics, community acupuncture, and other forms of self-care that offer sliding scale or discounted rates.

Other forms of self-gifting can include:

  • listening to music or a podcast
  • downloading a free meditation app
  • enjoying a favorite meal or snack
  • watching a favorite TV show
  • reading a book

‘Tis the season for self-gifting, in whichever manner will benefit you the most.

If you have the means and spending money will not substantially add to your stress, treat yourself and enjoy it.

Keep in mind that self-gifting is individual, it may mean booking a massage, going to a class, or going for a walk.

And remember, it’s when you are most stressed that self-gifting can have the biggest benefits.