By Beth Lipton
If you’re having trouble focusing on the fun part of buying holiday gifts this year, we get it. With so much uncertainty and pain out there right now, it can be tough to muster up the holiday cheer. There is a way to feel better that doesn’t involve binge-watching or stress baking, though: gifts that give back.
Why Gifts That Give Back Are the Best Gifts
It isn’t your imagination that giving gifts feels good. You experience a physical response from being kind. Research shows that helping someone without expecting anything in return is associated with a greater release of oxytocin. Also known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin gives you that super-happy feeling, known colloquially as the “helper’s high.”
Kindness also boosts the body’s production of serotonin, another chemical that helps you feel calm and happy. And studies show that being kind can help reduce pain, soothe anxiety and depression, and lower stress. It can even help protect your heart from disease and increase your lifespan.
Though buying any kind of gifts counts as kindness, you can double-down by shopping at companies that donate some or all of their proceeds to charity. Your friend or loved one gets a really nice gift, you do something good for the world, and you experience the physical and mental health benefits of kindness: Win-win-win.
1. Grounds & Hounds Coffee, from $15
For the coffee lover in your life: They get to enjoy great coffee and save a pup — what could be better? For every purchase of small-batch coffee, 20 percent of the profits go to animal rescue organizations all over the United States. So far, profits from Grounds & Hounds have provided more than 2 million shelter meals, 8,500 toys, 2,000 microchips and more in partnership with 375 rescue organizations.
2. Love with Food Snack Box, from $8
Help your favorite nosher discover fun, healthy snacks, and feed families in need at the same time. For as little as $8, Love with Food will send one box (or you can spring for a monthly subscription) with anywhere from 7 to 15+ curated snacks to your friend or loved one. Everything in the box is free of high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial flavorings and colorings, and hydrogenated oils. There’s even a box containing all gluten-free snacks. For every box you buy, Love with Food donates the cash equivalent of a meal to food banks all over the U.S.; so far the company has donated more an a million meals.
3. Endangered Species Chocolate Bars, from $3.50
If you have someone on your list who considers chocolate a food group (as we do), look no further than Endangered Species Chocolate. With organic, high-quality chocolate bars in flavors like Caramel Sea Salt and Oat Milk Rice Crisp—plus holiday specials like Peppermint Crunch and Caramel Spiced Apple—there’s something for every taste. All the bars are gluten free, made without additives or fillers, and include carefully sourced ingredients like pink Himalayan salt, U.S.-grown peanuts and fruit, and fair trade cinnamon and vanilla. Ten percent of the company’s annual profits go toward conservation organizations around the world; so far they’ve given more than $2.6 million, which has gone to planting trees, protecting and restoring animal habitats, and more.