The countdown to the end of 2021 is underway. While children excitedly write lists for Santa, there are also many who find choosing the perfect gifts for loved ones brings stress and anxiety.

When it goes well, giving or receiving a gift is a great experience. Both the giver and the receiver get that good rush of dopamine feeling. But bad experiences can leave us with a fear of choosing ‘the wrong gift’.

How can we get ourselves back to finding the joy in gifts? Thankfully, psychology research gives us some tips.

Does it need to be a surprise? Often gift givers assume that a gift that shows thought and creativity will be preferred to a gift from a wish list. Gift registries are a common part of weddings, but many online platforms now offer a similar thing for other celebrations like birthdays and Christmas. A study on wedding gifts in 2011 showed that recipients strongly preferred gifts that had been on their lists over other gifts. If you are struggling for inspiration, you may actually bring more joy by asking them for some ideas!

Experiences vs Physical Gifts? Gifts usually conjure up images of boxes, wrapping, giant bows, and the mystery of what might be inside. A physical gift may feel more normal, but studies show that gifts that give an experience are often better received and can connect people in a more significant way than material gifts. If you are struggling to find the right gift, consider giving an experience, like tickets to a movie or a concert, a trip in a hot air balloon, or a pottery class.

Try to not add to the stress this season can bring. When deciding on a gift, consider the path that will give you the greatest joy and least stress – a surprise, an experience, or simply asking the other person what they want.