With the pandemic ramped up again, holiday gift-giving has a very different feel this season. It seems the perfect time to consider gifts thoughtfully chosen to provide some comfort for the moment.
LIGHT What better gift for dealing with dark times than the gift of light? It can be as simple as a candle or as extravagant as a light box to help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
While candles are sometimes accused of being an impersonal gift, a high-quality candle in an appealing scent (many are suitable for men as well as women) can be an invitation to relaxation and ritual. Soy has been the clean-burning alternative to paraffin for a while, but recently candles of coconut wax have become prized even more highly. Gorgeously boxed coconut candles by companies such as Voluspa and Keap with 100 percent cotton wicks tend to burn cleaner and slower, carry scent more effectively, and are made from a sustainable crop.
While you might not want to tackle choosing a clinical-use light box, Sunlight Inside makes a table lamp it calls Bottled Sunshine, with settings that mimic the cycles of light we experience each day, from a boost of warm energy in the morning to blue-free candlelight at night to support sleep. Each lamp is beautifully made, handcrafted of wood and glass, and claims to be the first light source preset to automatically follow the cycle of natural light where you live.
SUSTENANCE It’s hard to go wrong with homemade foods and specialty items including spice mixes, vinegars, coffees, and cocoas. But my go-to comfort gift for a variety of occasions has always been a teapot with a hand-picked selection of favorite teas (or a sampler, like Taylors of Harrogate Classic Tea Variety Gift Box). You might include a handwritten card and an appropriate quote, like “There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” (Bernard-Paul Heroux)
GROWTH It can be a continuing source of gratification to watch something come alive before your eyes. Some local florists and garden centers offer safe in-person shopping, but Etsy has a good selection of online options including Urban Leaf’s Culinary Herb Garden Kit. Other options are a bulb set or a small flowering plant that requires minimal care. My favorites are succulents, which come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes — even colors — and usually need watering only every couple of weeks, providing the pleasure of something green without lots of maintenance.
WARMTH Nothing beats a warm embrace for comfort, but when the times don’t allow that, a luxurious shawl to wrap around the shoulders or a soft throw to snuggle up in can help fill the bill. Try the Chanasya Warm Hugs Positive Energy Sherpa Blanket. Or a heated throw — one of the season’s new hot ideas for indoors and out.
CALM Long a celebrated source of healing, crystals can be a great source of comfort for many. But for others, the idea of crystals can seem a bit woo-woo. The Urban + The Mystic wants to dispel that attitude with gift collections that demystify the world of healing crystals and encourage people to include them in their everyday lives to create moments of reflection and intention. Curated, handmade box sets combine various crystals with a candle and other meaningful elements embracing different themes, from “Thank You” and “Meditation” to “Bereavement” and “Heart Healing.”
GRATITUDE A simple journal that somehow facilitates the act of counting one’s blessings — no matter how meager in the moment — can be a powerful catalyst for keeping things in perspective and moving forward. If you think completely blank pages might be too overwhelming, “The One-Minute Gratitude Journal” (by Brenda Nathan) offers prompts and nonreligious inspirational quotes.
MUSIC Remember when mixtapes were all the rage? If you wanted to show someone you cared, you’d create a tape of all your (or their) favorites. Now you can do the same thing digitally and give someone a playlist of memorable music for phone, tablet, computer, or through a Bluetooth sound system. Music directly affects our nervous system and “hath charms to soothe a savage breast.”
LAUGHTER This one depends on the recipient and the situation, but laughter really can be the best medicine, decreasing stress hormones and bolstering the immune system. A joke book, a list of classic comedies and where to stream, links to your favorite YouTube channels, the antics of a small child or animal — get creative. As Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.