Gift Yourself

Gift Yourself

Who’s left off your gift list?

The Practice:
Gift yourself.


Can you remember a time when you offered a gift to someone? Perhaps a holiday present, or a treat to a child, or taking time for a friend – or anything at all. How did this feel? Researchers have found that giving stimulates the same neural networks that light up when we feel physical pleasure, such eating a cookie or running warm water over cold hands. Long ago, the Buddha said that generosity makes one happy before, during, and after the giving.

Then there is receiving. Can you remember a different time, when someone was giving toward you? Maybe it was a tangible, something you could hold in your hands, or perhaps it was something like a moment of warmth, or an apology, or some kind of restraint. Whatever it was, how did it feel? Probably pretty good.

Well, if you are giving . . . toward yourself . . . it’s a two-for-one deal! And besides the benefits noted above, there are the implicit rewards of taking action rather than being passive (which helps reduce any sense of learned helplessness, to which mammals like us are very vulnerable), and of treating yourself like you matter, which is especially important if you haven’t felt like you mattered enough to others.

Further, when you give more to yourself, you have more to offer others when your own cup runneth over. Studies show that as people experience greater well-being, they are usually more inclined toward kindness, patience, altruism, and other kinds of “prosocial” behavior.
As Bertrand Russell wrote: The good life is a happy life. I do not meant that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good.


Gifting yourself comes in many forms, most them in small moments in everyday life. For example, as I write this, the gift is to lean back from the keyboard, take a breath, look out the window, and relax. It’s a do-able gift.

Less tangibly, earlier this week I was getting wrapped up mentally in wanting a friend to succeed in his business, so I gave myself the “treat” of letting go of my over-investment in things beyond my control. Sitting in a meeting earlier today and thinking about this practice, I took in the gift of appreciating how fortunate I was to learn from the other people in the room.

Not doing can also be an important gift to yourself: Not having that third beer, not interrupting a friend’s irritated account of a hassle at work, not bugging a lover who wants some space right now, not staying up late watching TV, not rushing about while you drive . . .

You can see how many opportunities there are each day to offer yourself simple yet beautiful and powerful gifts. Routinely ask yourself: What could I give myself right now? Or: What do I long for – that’s in my power to give myself? Then try to actually do it.

Focusing on a longer time frame, ask yourself: What’s the gift I want to offer myself today? This week? This year? Even: This life? Try to stay with the listening to the answers, letting them ring and ring again in the open space of awareness.

You could also imagine a deeply nurturing being and see what this one gives you – and then open to giving this to yourself.

Knowing your own giving heart – which is usually offered to others – can you extend that heart to yourself? Out of kindness and wisdom, cherishing and support, let your gifts flow to that one being in this world over whom you have the most power and therefore to whom you have the highest duty of care – the one who has your name.

  • mjparent
    Posted at 13:27h, 08 February

    I am realizing more often that I am a person. That I could acknowledge me, that person, more as she goes along her life doing her best. That’s bringing a sense of more love to myself. And yes today I gifted my self, for it’s my birthday and I cooked my best cookie recipe just to enjoy a great moment, doing and savoring the gift. Thank you for your great work Mr Hanson. You are a gift to me.

  • CnC
    Posted at 17:39h, 07 October

    That was such an effective practice. and an effective presentation. many thanks

  • flowingchi
    Posted at 18:55h, 07 October

    Even though I am a good friend to myself, I clearly saw I had a blind side to the befriending model.

    I just loved the practice of increased awareness of gifting myself during the day. Making it a concious practice rather than haphazard. What a beautiful practice and one in which I previously may have thought “selfish”!!!!!! Thank you This work is very important and you are a very effective communicator. Metta

  • Toni
    Posted at 06:14h, 08 October

    I am generally outward oriented and often don’t realize I’m overdoing it until I reach the point of exhaustion. I’m learning that I don’t have to respond to every opportunity or call for my attention, but rather, that I can pick and choose where and how I spend my precious time. Thank you for this article. It’s inspiring me to spend some time with myself today – a walk with my dog, a bubble bath, a lie down in the afternoon with a good book. Aaahhh!

    • Marki
      Posted at 12:25h, 08 October

      Toni, your response really hits the spot for me. That sense of choice about whether or not to respond to a request for my attention is a growing edge that is so fulfilling when I remember it. I really like the sense in this practice of small momentary gifts of spaciousness or skillful responses throughout the day.

  • Marg
    Posted at 00:25h, 09 October

    Dear Rick, you have a good communication style, it makes me want to learn. This course is very timely and greatly appreciated. thank you.

  • Plumtree
    Posted at 13:31h, 09 October

    Today I practiced gifting myself. Wow it sure felt good. I was skeptical because I Wasn’t sure I would be comfortable with choosing gifts that are good for me but that I would never think of as gifts, and may find hard to do. Like taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Thank you

  • Deborah Dilts
    Posted at 00:54h, 10 October

    I love how simple, accessible and thus doable this approach is. With just a little practice, I can already feel the muscle of aligning with myself growing. Many thanks, Rick, for putting this together!

  • Beverly
    Posted at 18:48h, 31 October

    I am consciously choosing to do something fun instead of acting from urgency or obligation. Result? I feel happy more of the time and I am having more genuine feelings of concern and kindness toward others too! I am enjoying teaching this concept to my clients and watching their delight when they try it!

  • Linz
    Posted at 16:17h, 21 February

    ” I gave myself the “treat” of letting go of my over-investment in things beyond my control.” Wise words. So I’ve depoliticized my Twitter account today. It’s just all pretty pictures, cute animals, fine art, lovely landscapes, wisdom, and good jokes from now on.

  • Janey WaterDancer
    Posted at 17:21h, 02 February

    I am sitting, tired and contemplative. My gift yo me is reading this. I am not sure what I want, beyond a healthy, happy family. I know I struggle to receive. I just decided I want to be more open to receiving. I will have to sit with the idea of giving to myself. I am enjoying your talks and teachings. Thanks.

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