The expectation of reciprocity often comes with gift-giving, Byrd says.
“I imagine that there is a small subset of us who do give and expect nothing in return. You can tag that with those who give anonymously,” he says. “But, I think there is an innate desire to receive when we give. No matter the gift, people want to receive.”
Psychologists aren’t the only ones who understand the mental and emotional benefits of gift-giving. The holiday season is also a big time for advertisers to tap into the feelings of consumers in an effort to get them to buy products. It seems as if Christmas advertising arrives earlier every year.
Whether it’s through television commercials and shopping websites filled with holiday music and graphics or store displays offering festive cheer, consumers can’t escape holiday advertising.
“Advertisers are very good at creating a culture of giving and being prepared for finding that right gift,” Byrd says. “There is a great expectation and buildup of what it will mean when a person receives it. Advertisers also know about the satisfaction of the deal — something that looks like an expensive gift but the person purchased it for a deal.”
Gifts can also bring on feelings of negativity for both the giver and recipient when the gift is much more or much less than they expected.
“A person can have immediate feelings of resentment if they feel a person has not spent enough,” Byrd says. “They feel undervalued or cheated. Or perhaps the gift expresses more feelings than expected.”
Although gift-giving can be a de-stressor and create balance, the hunt for the perfect gift for friends and family can also cause a lot of stress. The costs of gifts and what it takes to package them can be a financial burden.
“People need to remember there are ways to acknowledge others without having to purchase something,” Byrd says. “Christmas cards and photos tell you that you are in that person’s network and you are important enough to keep updated with what’s going on in that person’s life.”
Activities such as gatherings or parties are also a good way to share the holiday spirit without exchanging gifts.
“I think the focus should stay on what the holidays are really about and not on the commercial aspects of it,” Silvernail says. “Gifts don’t have to be huge monetary things to make everyone feel good.”