5 Ways Everyone Is Doing Relaxation Wrong

Unwinding–A Master Class, Part 1

5 Ways Everyone Is Doing Relaxation Wrong

“Relax!” verb, directive – a phrase you say that will almost guarantee the person being addressed will never, ever be able to relax.

We throw the words “relax and unwind” around too easily. We tell people to do it as though it was as easy as breathing (well, it kinda is, but more on that in part 2). This casual tossing around of these words has damaged the concept in our minds. We’re too quick to think we “don’t have time” to relax (lie), or more commonly that what we are doing is relaxing when it’s absolutely not.

Relaxation isn’t the same thing as “fun”. Relaxing things can be fun, but not all fun things are relaxing. We live in a busy, distracted world, and the best most of us feel we can do to “unwind” is to get some TV in before bed, maybe go out for dinner from time to time and take our annual vacation.

How is that working out for you?

Can we do better?

In this two-part post, we’ll explore what relaxation isn’t, what it is, and ask ourselves some tough questions about how to do it best.

Your body: temple or amusement park?
Be careful about using food as entertainment, especially if it’s cheap, fried, sugary, or some combination of these things. These kinds of foods hack the pleasure centers of the brain, overwhelming your sense of being satisfied with a need for the explosive dopamine hit to continue. This is why “you can’t eat just one”. It’s a food hijacking your brain and using the mechanisms designed to help you to survive to help you gorge.

Foods high in sugars kick up insulin production in your body, which in turn puts stress on your circulatory system and your heart. Over time, this can aggravate the negative effects of daily stress on the body. A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats can have a similar effect. Excess, with food or alcohol can also do a lot of damage, even when it’s done in the name of fun or relaxation.

There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence now and then, but just know that you’re trading some mental and psychological pleasure for some bodily stress that can accumulate to a deadly result over a long period of time. We’re not saying “no dessert!” (God forbid!) Just use moderation and understand the trade-off you’re making. If bodily stress is a major concern, don’t neglect this aspect of how you treat your body.

Mind games
Real unwinding is not just about your physical well being–the tension in your muscles, etc. It has just as much to do with your mind.

It’s easy to confuse the mind with the self, and so we forget that the mind is a tool. It helps us make decisions, interprets our experiences, and produces our feelings. Since it’s a tool, we need to keep it working well. This means you need to regularly rest it and sharpen it. But too often we abuse it by overindulging it with sensational experiences, cheap thrills, and shallow, fleeting pleasures.

Screens
We can hardly get away from them. An outside observer might guess that we’re slaves to these flat, glowing surfaces. They’ve filled our living rooms, bedrooms, classrooms, workplaces, and even our pockets, purses, and cars. A lot has been said to question the wisdom of this cultural shift, but let’s focus for a moment on how it affects your stress and relaxation.

The light from screens can actually cause stress. Sleep studies have shown that the stimulation caused by the bright LCD and LED-style screens that fill our lives inhibit the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals to your body that it’s night and that it’s time to sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping you might consider keeping the screens off for an hour or two before going to bed and see if that helps at all.

And what about social media? Studies have shown conclusively that the most social media you use, the less happy and healthy you are. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram, while fun and useful at times, can also breed envy and depression as we compare and contrast everyone’s best days with our worst and get drawn into unproductive political debating and ruminating. Even the “news” we find there turns out to be less than reliable.

Porn
Long gone are the days of a guilty pile of mags stashed in the woods or the furtive trips to the adult video store. The device you’re reading this on right now is a private, anonymous conduit to see more naked bodies than a Victorian libertine could’ve seen in a lifetime.

Cultural enthusiasm for this stuff has given way to a justified backlash as critics point out exploitative norms in the industry, and psychologists critically interrogate porn’s value in enhancing our sex lives. Porn use can cost you your job and cause public humiliation, not to mention the damage it can do to your libido, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy healthy sexuality.

Porn is like a mental junk food, hijacking your senses and your brain to keep you riding high on oxytocin and dopamine while it reroutes your sex drive to fleeting, superficial experiences. In most cases, these experiences, while they can be intensely pleasurable in the moment, only serve to isolate you rather than build a lasting bond with another person.

Bingeing
Let’s be honest: if it were healthy, we wouldn’t call watching hours of television on end “bingeing”. Letting yourself get swept up in a drama can be cathartic. There’s nothing wrong with some escapism now and then. But is there any drama that’s worth the loss of sleep and every negative consequence that flows from that?

Entertainment, but for zombies
Going out for drinks, watching TV, video games, movies–we all have a set list of the things we do because it’s the weekend, or it’s time to relax, or it just seems like the thing to do. But does that mean it’s relaxing? Does that mean it’s worth your time?

Examine your recreational choices and question them–really put them under the hot lights and interrogate them–for what they’re actually giving you. Are you really getting out of them what you think? Is it time to break the mold and try something new?

In part 2, we’ll talk about healthy ways to unwind that are truly relaxing and life-enhancing long term.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and Marketing Director for The Good Life Massage. You can send you comments to him directly or ask him how he can help you build your brand through content marketing by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

Advertisements

Get Out: How to Refresh Your Well Being With the Power of Nature

Get Out

When was the last time you spent more than a few minutes outdoors? If you’re like me, you prefer to stay inside, surrounded by a few nice people and your favorite things. But recent studies suggest you might be harming your mental, and possibly even your physical health by staying in too much.

And it’s not just about staying indoors, it’s about city life in general. If you’re reading this, you most likely live in a world full of electronic and mechanical noise, artificial light, metal, plastic, and pavement. But it probably wasn’t like this for your grandparents, or their grandparents.

The urban experiment
In the roughly 10,000 years of human civilization, it’s only relatively recently that a critical mass of humanity has begun living in cities, foregoing rural or nomadic life for freeways, big box stores, and high speed internet. It may seem like it’s been the way life is for most for a long time. But it’s really an experiment in human living that’s only just begun.

How’s it going for you so far?

In spite of the many benefits of living in cities, people are reporting high levels of unhappiness, malaise, and dissatisfaction. Does that mean we should sell our possessions and live in the woods? There may not be any need to go to such extremes.

Take a hike
One study showed that even minimal exposure to nature can make a difference in happiness and well-being. Short walks in the park, keeping potted plants around, or even gazing at landscape painting made a difference in the subjects. Another study showed that when potted plants were present in an office environment, overall stress was reduced, employee sick time plummeted, and productivity improved.

Consciously adding some outdoors time to your self care regime is easy, fun, and relaxing. Even if you’re out in not-the-best weather, you might be surprised how much better you feel afterwards.

Even some artificial nature is better than nothing. At The Good Life Massage, our waiting area has a pleasant waterfall and handsome potted plants, and every massage treatment room is equipped with a white noise machine, usually making the sounds of rain or ocean waves to help deepen your relaxation.

Add a little nature
The preponderance of evidence that suggests that exposure to natural settings and a general sense of well-being and happiness has been overwhelming to the psychological community. So much so that a new field of ecopsychology has arisen, in which mental health professionals are looking further into the ways our happiness, health, and relationship to nature intertwine.

In a sweeping happiness survey of American cities, some interesting patterns showed up. One of the significant factors that connected America’s happiest large cities (Seattle among them!) was proximity to natural or green spaces, along with easy access to large bodies of water. These were only a few of several factors, but it’s interesting in light of the studies about the relationship between happiness and regular exposure to nature.

So turn off the TV, leave your phone off, and get out there. Don’t let a beautiful day, or a beautiful life, go to waste.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and reach your customers by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

How to Help When Things Get Real

how to help when things get real

There’s been much made in the news about terrible things happening around the world, and rightly so. Families are displaced by wars, genocide goes unchecked in Asia and the middle east, and natural disasters cripple entire societies. When disasters like this strike, aid is organized, charities and religious groups scramble to the rescue.

But what about the smaller tragedies, those disasters that feel enormous and earth-shaking only to that one person or that handful of people you’re close to? The loss of a spouse through death or divorce, incarceration, separation from children, death of a loved one, violent crime, or even the loss of health or employment? Mental health problems can be simultaneously shaming and debilitating, with stigma driving the sufferers and their loved ones deeper into isolation.

When these things happen to someone you know, it’s hard to know what to do or what to say. The best most of us can do is politely offer help (knowing they won’t want to impose by actually asking us for anything), try to “be there” for them (whatever that means). We wish we could do more. We mean well. But we feel paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong thing, of maybe making things worse.

You can do something. It won’t change their life or make everything okay, but it also won’t be impossible for you to do, an they really will feel their burden being lightened, even if only a little. What follows are some suggestions to consider when someone you know has been through something traumatic or devastating.

All of these suggestions are just that, and you should use your own judgement to tailor these ideas to the circumstances.

Dancing hotdog
Give Hallmark the day off. Nobody really buys the schmalzy messages in overpriced gift-cards, anyway. But you’d be surprised what good a little laughter can do.

Send them something funny, something that might draw out a smile–a dancing hotdog GIF, a link to a cat video. But whatever you send, make it personal and private. Use a text message, Instagram, Facebook, whichever platform you prefer. Send one every day, or at least a few times a week. It lets them know you’re thinking about them without getting all sappy about it, and without drawing any possibly unwanted attention to their misfortune.

Logistics
Treat them to some food. Sure, it’s cliché to bring a casserole to the doorstep. But clichés are clichés for a reason. Someone who’s going through something terrible may struggle to do the basics. Modulate your strategy to suit how close you are to the person, but it might be greatly appreciated if you can help with the small stuff.

Have a load of groceries or toiletries delivered to their home.

An Uber gift card, or a parking garage membership can make all the difference, especially when someone is facing frequent hospital trips or have some other crisis that’s making transportation more complicated for them. Even if all you got them was a small pre-paid gas card, the gesture could make a big difference.

It’s easier than ever to send care packages to cover the little necessities of life. It’s both a thoughtful gesture that lets the person know they’re not alone while also relieving some of their troubles.

Shut up
Try to resist the urge to offer advice or be the shoulder to cry on, be someone to vent/rage to, be the one to offer advice. Numbness is a defense strategy that shouldn’t be trifled with, and might result in the person pushing you away–possibly even violently.

Besides, this isn’t about you and your role, or how you see yourself. Make it about them and what they need. Make yourself available and be ready to respond to their needs without needing to be asked, and without drawing attention to the generosity of your offer. Just be present and responsive to what they need.

Be present in every sense and just listen to them. It’s amazing what people say when you just sit quietly and let them express whatever they need to say at their own pace. This is harder than it sounds, so bring some imaginary duct tape to put over your mouth.

Thoughts and Prayers
Now this one kind of is about you. Pray about them. Think about them. You can tell them you’re sending them thoughts and prayers if you want to, but don’t just say it. It’s better to do it and not say it, than to say it and not do it.

Pondering their difficult situation will increase your compassion for them in a deep and genuine way. You’ll be more emotionally responsive to their needs. Side benefit: exercising your compassion in this way could even make you a better person long-term.

Life is hard, as you’ve probably figured out by now. No matter how immaculate our own choices may be, bad things will happen, even to you. If you’re paying attention to the needs of those you love, and are attentive, that builds you crucial social capital–a social savings account of sorts. You’ll build your network of emergency responders of your own, and make you better prepared to survive the encounter when death knocks on your door.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and reach your customers by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

3 Self-Massage Hacks (To Tide You Over Until Your Next Massage)

3 Self-Massage Hacks

Just because you’re between regular massage appointments doesn’t mean you have to suffer until your LMT gets their hands on you. Self massage is surprisingly simple to do, and can pay off big if you’re trying to get through a tough, stressful day, or want to reward yourself for surviving one.
Here are 5 simple massage hacks you can do at home or at work to keep you going until the next treatment.

1. Sub-Occipital, or the “Sweet Spot”

This one requires no more tools than your fingers on either hand. Find the spot just behind your ears where the back of your head connects to your neck. Press in at that connection point, moving your fingers towards and then away from the middle of your neck in slow repetitions. Do that for about 30 seconds.
How does that feel?

2. The “Play Ball” Back Massage

Get a tennis or racket ball and wedge it between your back and the wall. Use your legs to move your back up and down against the ball. You can vary the pressure however you like, and that ball can reach places you’ll never be able to get to without imposing on a friend or booking a massage.
This one can also be a great way to do a pre-massage check on yourself, so you know just what parts of your back seem to need the most attention from your LMT.

3. Handy Hand Massage

If you spend a lot of time at the keyboard or working with your hands, this one was made for you. This actually consists of not one technique or motion, but several in a sequence. First, firmly, but gently grasp your hands in each other. You’ll be surprised how nice this feels when you really take a moment and focus on the sensations.
Next, take each finger in the other hand and gently pull and twist, running your hand up to the finger tip.
To finish, give your fingers a shake like you’re trying to shake slime off, then clench each fist one at a time, smoothing them over gently.
The hardest, but maybe the most important part 

Don’t forget the mental, emotional component of this exercise in self care. Any massage therapist worth their salt isn’t just going through a series of motions during a session. They’re thinking of you and your needs, paying attention to what they’re feeling going on in those muscles and what needs the most attention.
A sense of caring and loving-kindness is crucial to giving a good massage, whether it’s for someone else or yourself. For many of us, the self-love and self-care aspect of this is the toughest to get past, but these techniques are about more than mechanical motions to go through.

To really get the maximum benefit, send yourself the kind of good feelings, compassion, and awareness that you’d devote to someone you really cared for.

Have you tried these and still feel like a wreck? Book your next massage now!
Choose the good life!
Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him to help you build your brand and reach your customers by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

Gratitude: The Gift You Give To Yourself

 

Gratitude

We tend to think that gratitude is a feeling that just happens to you–a reaction, like laughing at a joke. The problem with this idea is that it makes us victims of our own ability to adapt. Even if the circumstances we live in are extremely good, we may not have any awareness of it. We’re just focused on the next threat to our existence. This is a good strategy for staying alive, but it doesn’t work so well for feeling like life is worth living. We get used to how good things are, and before we know it we’re sneaking envious peeks over the fence to admire the neighbors’ grass.

Gratitude works like magic in the way it can transform the hum-drum world around you into a place of wonders: a place where miracles are happening all around you at every moment. You can see this transformation in even the most mundane and onerous aspects of modern life (including commercial air travel).

Not only does gratitude make you feel better about what you have, it can open the door to even more good things in your life.

For your health
Being grateful for your body and your health increases your body awareness. Your body may not look just the way you’d like; it’s current condition may reflect either poor choices on your part or circumstances beyond your control. But consider what an amazing mechanism your body is! Millions of years of evolutionary growth have gone into it, and before that, the very stuff you’re made of was a part of the stars in the heavens. Your body, whatever it’s condition, is a wonder to behold. Keeping these beautiful ideas in your heart and mind will do more for your happiness and health than you may realize.

In fact, studies show that people who are grateful are more likely to attend regular checkups, have fewer aches and pains, and suffer from less depression. What’s more, a default position of gratitude will help you enjoy your body more and deepen your happiness and sense of well-being, helping you feel better both mentally and physically. And who couldn’t use more of that?

So exercise! Enjoy affection and intimacy with someone you love. Get a massage from time to time to give your body a little treat.

For your relationships
A study published in Emotion in 2014 showed that saying thank you to someone you’ve just met increases the likelihood that the person you’ve thanked will establish an on-going connection with you. When the people around you feel appreciated, they tend to want to do more of the thing you thanked them for. As you continue thanking people and as gratitude becomes the default for your personal and working relationships, more and more people gather around you, offering up their best selves as you keep rewarding them with recognition and gratitude, often without even thinking twice about it.

For your soul
Are you feeling ground down all the time, defensive, victimized? Do you lash out at people who probably don’t deserve it, or feel like a slave to your own tempestuous moods? Consider cultivating more gratitude.

A 2014 University of Kentucky study showed that people who rated higher in gratitude were less likely to retaliate when given negative feedback, and showed greater empathy towards others over all.

With greater gratitude, you’ll have higher self-esteem because you’ll be able to recognize your own gifts, and so won’t feel the need to resent the achievements or accomplishments of others.

What more reasons do you need? Cultivate gratitude in your life. Treat yourself like someone you’re trying to take care of and work gratitude into your public and private life. Pray or meditate daily. See how many times you can say “thank you” to the people in your life in a given day.

Get curious about it: hat would happen if you tried it?

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to develop your brand and social media strategy by contacting him at TomGunn@gmail.com

6 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Wellness Goals

6 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Wellness Goals

The Good Life Massage would like to commend you on trying to live a healthier lifestyle! Even simple things like reading this blog post are steps in the right direction. But is every step you take a step forward?

We’d like to point out a few things people commonly do in the interest of taking care of themselves that are actually counter-productive and even self-sabotaging. Do any of these describe what you’ve been doing?

“Diet” Soda and other pre-packaged “Health” Foods
To be sure, diet soda is not as bad for you as regular soda, but it isn’t doing you any favors, either. You’ll tend to drink more of it than you think you are, which can damage your teeth and marinate your nervous system in caffeine! Regular consumption can even increase appetite, especially if you’re used to drinking it with meals or snacks. Low fat/carb “treats” from companies like Weight Watchers also tend to deceive you into thinking you’re eating well, when in fact you’re eating very poorly. Read labels! They may have reduced the fat, but they also may have increased the sugar to balance it out.

Leave it to Western consumerism to create a cycle where what you consume (low fat, high sugar food products), creates a problem (weight gain), which in turn has to be solved by some other product. It’s a cycle of madness that stops the minute you stop thinking you can buy your way into eating better. The science is clear: a diet consisting mainly of whole foods–whole grains, nuts, lean meats, vegetables, and fruits–is the key to good nutrition. Don’t be seduced into thinking some magic product will remove your responsibility to make better choices.

Being your own trainer
Sorry, but you really can’t be your own trainer. It’s an appealing idea, especially in American culture, that you can bootstrap yourself into physical fitness and lifelong habits of activity and health. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually a realistic expectation.

You’re a more complicated, more social animal than that, whether you want to admit it or not. Don’t believe me? Those mostly-wasted gym memberships of years past and the lightly-used abdominizer which you bought from TV and that now languishes under your bed are all the evidence you need that I’m right. That’s not to say a more detailed explanation isn’t merited.

There are just some things you can’t do all on your own. Even if you have the athletic experience and history on your side, your own will power is a finite and unreliable resource. You just can’t depend on it alone. You’ll need several levels of redundancy to account for it’s inevitable failure. These can include sheer habit–a powerful tool–or building in some kind of accountability. If you can’t afford a trainer and can’t find a workout buddy, consider joining a team or taking a class, preferably in-person so someone will hold you to your commitment.

Skipping meals
Sure, you’re motivated. You want to eat less, hoping that it might give your metabolism a kick in the butt. And besides, you’re busy! Who has time to eat anyway! So goes the logic. But skipping meals is a big mistake if better health is your goal. It actually slows your metabolism down! Regularly stressing your body like that signals your metabolism to store more calories as fat in the interest of long-term survival. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a famine and being busy. Don’t send it the wrong message by skipping meals!

Eating small meals high in protein and complex carbohydrates will keep your appetite at a moderate level, while reassuring your body that it will get all the fuel it needs to survive.

Going it alone
We get it: health is a personal thing, and not everyone wants to share their progress towards their health and fitness goals on social media. (And truthfully, most of your followers probably don’t want to follow you *that* closely!) But that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Invite those closest to you–those people you know in three dimensional meat space–to be your cheering section. And get your doctor, massage therapist, and other health professionals in your life in on it! They’ll be able to help you measure your progress, set realistic goals, and give you expert advice on diet and exercise tailored to your body’s needs.

But above all, having people support you feeds your progress! When you have people interested in your progress and in seeing your wellness improve, you won’t want to flake out and let them down. And when you succeed, it feels even bigger and more significant. Because it is big. It is significant. Your life matters, and we all want it to continue as long as possible.

Getting lost in the stats
Data can be helpful… to a point. Knowing whether or not it will rain today: helpful. Knowing exact rainfall stats for this day for every year in recorded history? Consuming all those numbers might be interesting, but ultimately doesn’t help you decide how to dress. All the information you get from your food scale, measuring tape, wearable fitness tracker, nutrition labels, and your bathroom scale–numbers, numbers, numbers–can create an unhealthy obsession.

Not convinced? Consider this possible scenario:

You’ve been good! Excellent, even. You’ve been pushing yourself hard on your workouts, and you’ve been eating well (which is more enjoyable than you ever could have expected). You rise one glorious morning feeling fantastic–healthier than you’ve been in years. You do your workout, and feel pretty good about it.

But your wearable fitness tracker gives you results far worse than you were expecting. Kind of frustrating, but no big deal, right? Surely the results will show on the scale. But no! Betrayed there, too! What was the point of all this? Why have you worked so hard, made so many big changes if this is the result you could expect?

Remember, you woke up feeling great, feeling healthy. But the only conclusion you can draw from all that scientific data is that you were wrong about that–that you aren’t as healthy as you felt. And while you may know logically that what you’re doing is fine, that the way you feel about your progress is valid, that you just have to keep at it, the emotional signal you’re giving yourself is the opposite: you’re defeated. You’ve been wasting your time. You should quit. You might not be committed to that defeatest way of thinking. No! you say to yourself defiantly. This is good. I will persist! And while that war is raging inside you, someone brings a big bag of candy bars to the office to share with everyone. It’s pouring rain and freezing cold for your jog the next morning. What do you do? Chances are, your efforts have just come to a quiet, ineffectual close. Why? Because the data psyched you out.

You’re always telling yourself a story about yourself. To persist as the hero of that story, you need to be able to trust your own gauge on how you’re doing in moving forward with it. Data can be very helpful! It can even be essential, not allowing you to fool yourself about what you’re doing or how well you’re doing. Just don’t forget to think long-term. The game isn’t won or lost with one days’ data. Take control of your narrative by taking that data with a grain of salt. Try working out a few times with the wearable left at home. The results you want will, in time, be fully measurable and satisfying, but don’t let those numbers stop you from moving towards that goal.

Ignoring your body, because “the program”
This is common early on, especially when you’re determined to make a change and you’re feeling zealous. If you’re too hard on yourself, you could actually injure yourself, sabotaging the whole project. Educate yourself on what kind of pain you should be feeling and when! If it’s the day after your first heavy activity in a long time, don’t be surprised if you feel sore. But don’t dismiss all pain!Pain

Contrary to that meme, pain is not just weakness leaving your body–it can also be health leaving your body and being replaced with pain–terrible, agonizing pain. So be smart! Get in for a massage after your first few workouts, or after a particularly tough session. See a doctor if you have pain that persists for longer than a few minutes. Get your form down so you can up the intensity without hurting yourself. Yes, progress matters, but don’t damage your body in its name.

Don’t quit! We’re pulling for you.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to develop your brand and social media strategy by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

5 Reasons to Give Experiences, Not “Stuff”

5 Reasons to Give Experiences Not Stuff

You’ve seen it year after year now–the “deals” that come tumbling into your phone notifications and email inbox. Every retailer imaginable feeding a narrative that seems to build on itself like an avalanche until it becomes a seemingly unstoppable force. That narrative: that there’s low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked, and if you miss it, well–you MISSED IT! Imagine how much worse your life will be if you don’t land that DEAL! If it feels like this message is being screamed at you, that’s only because it is–from all sides.

But let’s pause for a moment and consider this message. Is it true? How does it jibe with your experience as a consumer?

Think about last year. How much of the stuff you bought (for just a great deal!) last year is something you still use? Do you even still have any of those items? Chances are, even if you have them, you probably don’t use them. Maybe they turned out to be not what you’d hoped. Maybe the enticement of a deal got you so wound up you purchased something you found you didn’t really want. And where does it end up? In the trash? Donated to charity? Passed on to someone else?

We can all agree that giving is good, but how can you give better? How do you stop yourself from falling for the same consumerist trap every year?

Here we’ll discuss 5 reasons to stop giving “stuff” and start giving experiences instead!

Memory, not stuff, makes your identity
True, sometimes giving stuff IS giving an experience. Who doesn’t remember being a kid and tearing the wrapping paper of a hoped-for gift? Maybe it broke the next day or you played with it for years, but that moment is what you were really given. That moment is what you take with you. When you experience something, it influences your whole future–every future decision you make. The trick is that your mind tends to jettison memories of things that seem to be useless or mundane–like the disappointing gift you got from your Aunt Sally. Why hang on to that memory? The memory of receiving it is gone at almost the same moment the gift itself is discarded or put in a closet–out of sight, out of mind.

Experiences, on the other hand, remain, especially if it takes the person out of the mundane grind of daily life. Maybe it’s something they would love to do, but for some reason wouldn’t ever decide to try on their own? Maybe the experience you give them will actually help them to become a better person, or will help them achieve a goal they’ve always wanted to reach for. Giving an experience is giving them something that will stick with them, something they’ll be telling their friends about, something they might even remember on their death bed.

Giving STUFF–bad for the economy
When you give stuff, you’re playing an odd game of roulette with your giving. Maybe they’ll find that thing useful or entertaining. But you can’t always be sure. For this reason, economists have argued that gifting is actually bad for the economy: people spend good money on something for another person, which most of the time is unwanted by that other person. This evaluation passes over the social value of gifting, but the point is well taken. Aren’t we being a bit wasteful, spending money on this stuff (on sale!) that’s likely to be forgotten anyway?

Experiences don’t need storage units or landfills
Americans are drowning in stuff. The off-site storage unit business has exploded in recent decades as people find there’s not enough room in their houses-garages-attics-basements for all their STUFF. And they cling to that STUFF so dearly that they’re actually willing to take on considerable monthly rental fees just to keep it under someone else’s roof across town.

On the other end of the spectrum, regarding STUFF we throw away, that has to go somewhere. We contaminate soil and defile the natural world just so we can bury the STUFF we can’t use anymore. Maybe some of it gets recycled, but that recycling process doesn’t come without environmental cost. And let’s not forget the energy spent, the natural resources used to produce that nick-knack in the first place. And all for what? A transitory feeling of pleasure at opening a gift, at best, and a feeling of disappointment and obligation at worst. Doesn’t it make more sense to send your loved one to a concert, or give them an excuse to finally visit that museum they’ve always wanted to check out?

Everybody loves a good experience
Great experiences know no age. Young or old, everyone likes to have fun, to learn new things, to have a chance to improve themselves. We’re wired to enjoy novelty, no matter what form it takes, and no matter how young or old we are. And that novelty is far more memorable when it comes in the form of experience that delights all the senses and isn’t just another soon-to-be-forgotten shiny thing.

Experiences are easier to buy
There’s at least one person on your list who’s impossible to shop for–that person who doesn’t seem to want anything, or who already has everything they could want (that’s in your price range). Or maybe it’s just hard to tell what they would want. Buying them an experience is so much easier! Think about that difficult person on your list: do they like learning new things, eating out, getting massages, going to plays or concerts? Chances are they like at least ONE of these things! And you only need one!

On top of all this, experiences can be given year after year! Did they love that massage gift certificate they got last year? Why not give it again? Maybe you could even add on enough for them to try one of our great session enhancements or try a longer massage. Sure, you sent them to the symphony last year, but maybe they’d love to see a rock concert this year.

Giving experiences beats giving stuff for so many reasons. We could keep going, but we don’t want to keep you. Get out there and enjoy the experiences of your life. And when it’s time to gift, share those experiences with those you love.

Be good to yourself this week.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to design your logo, create social media posts and other content, or strategically develop your brand by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com