A Non-Traditional Birthday Gift Guide

In honor of my birthday this month I thought I would share 25 gifts (in no particular order) you can use as inspiration for your friends and family or shamelessly give yourself.

Some you can present with a bow on top and others are too meaningful for gift wrap. I list most of these with the hope they improve our quality of life or the lives around us.

(As I was finishing this list I saw a general pattern in the gifts: presence, learning, and reflection. All vital elements in life, in my opinion. What do you think?)

photo: pinterest

1. Invest in Therapy

Therapy is an investment in your overall health. If your insurance isn’t great, there are different options to keep mental healthcare accessible. Telehealth options are in abundance at the moment, so really, what are you waiting for?

2. A Library Card

A library card opens up the wonderful world of learning. Even if your library is closed, many offer ebooks and audiobooks on apps like Libby and Hoopla. Libraries can also be hosts to all types of resources and events, not just books.

11 Library Card Perks You’ve Never Heard Of

3. Spread Kindness

In a nation riddled with hate, division, and uncertainty, kindness makes a huge difference.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

— Amelia Earhart

4. Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be beneficial for anyone! Learn more about it here.

5. Spend Time Outdoors

With increased isolation and time indoors, I am so grateful to spend outdoors. It’s a great way to safely interact with others (or not!) and move your body.

How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? — University of Minnesota

6. Spend Time with Loved Ones

Even if you can’t physically spend time with someone, there are still ways to spend time together. As things slowly open up, be both mindful and creative!

7. Invest in Sex and Relationship Education

Sex/sexuality and relationship education isn’t a one-stop-shop in middle school, it’s a lifelong conversation that grows and matures with time. Whether or not you’re in an intimate partnership, it is important to sharpen your relationship skills, like communication, boundaries, and problem solving.

8. Volunteer for a Cause

If you feel strongly about animals or social reform or creation care or any other cause — volunteer! And better yet, bring a friend!.

9. Invest in Physical Wellbeing

Try a new yoga practice, grab a gift card for a therapeutic massage, or explore a new sport. Find a way to care for yourself on purpose.

Make it date and learn a new dance with a partner.

10. Establish Prayer or Meditation Practice

There are hundreds (thousands?) of books on prayer and even more ways to pray. If you feel stuck, try something different like a lectio divina or the examen. Don’t feel obligated to sit still, by all means, walking or household chores can lend themselves nicely to prayer or meditation.

11. Learn About a Different Faith or Culture

It is well worth the time to listen and understand, rather than be understood.

“People of different religions and cultures live side-by-side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us in very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what- and who we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings.”

— Kofi Annan

10 Honorable Ways to Learn About Another Culture

Book and Film Lists – Racial Equity Tools

12. Take a Screen Time Sabbath

Screen time can be useful, but take a moment to pause the scrolling. This is surely a gift to yourself and also to those around you!

13. Declutter Your Space

Set the timer for 5 minutes, even 2 minutes, and focus on the kitchen counter or the pile in the bedroom. Surprise yourself with the difference you made.

Cleaning and detailing a friend’s car might make you the best friend, ever!

14. Drink More Water

You know this. I know this. We all know water is a miracle worker. A reminder to drink plenty of water is both mom-approved and science-based.

15. Care for a Plant

Plants teach you valuable life skills, like gentleness, patience, and understanding how and when to nurture or prune. You might also get some delicious herbs or veggies, too.

Word to the wise, plants make lovely gifts.

16. Give Yourself Compassion

This is a gift I’m giving myself this year. It’s not the easiest gift to give, but it’s been well worth it. Give yourself permission to be human, to be vulnerable, to grow, to learn, to fail miserably and then find a way back up again.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

— Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

17. Take More Pictures

Try taking pictures to remember the moment, not fill up Instagram. Take bad pictures. Take silly ones. Take photos special only to you. Have someone else take your picture, because God knows you need to be remembered, too.

18. Journal or Read a Memoir

I learn a lot about myself from journaling and reading the experiences of others through biographies or memoirs. Journaling doesn’t always have to be pen and paper. Recently I’ve been using the app 1 Second Everyday to record pieces of my life.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

— Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

19. Create a Rule of Life

I talk a little more about this here. If you don’t have one yet, now’s the perfect time to start brainstorming and crafting one! This is an excellent gift to yourself.

20. Share Your Creativity

Creativity looks different for everyone. Coding, painting, carpentry work, writing, boat design — share it with someone! It doesn’t have to be polished or perfect to be meaningful.

21. Read a Children’s Book

When was the last time you browsed the shelves of the children’s section? (Amazon counts!) Children’s books are colorful, whimsical, and often include timeless life lessons — like how to be a good friend or why it’s important not to eat yellow snow.

Here’s a couple I like: The Rabbit Listened, The Moon Jumpers, Miss Rumphius, and Hats of Faith

22. Learn More About Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram

These models are more descriptive than prescriptive, so explore with a grain of salt and enjoy the process of learning. They can be especially helpful in a team setting or in a relationship.

23. Eat a Nourishing Meal

You probably already know the power of food. It’s not simply physical nourishment, it’s emotional and spiritual food, too. Whether a meal is made for you or you create your own menu, food is an amazing way to say “You’re loved!”

24. Create a Playlist

Music is a beautiful way to show someone you care for them. Playlists are the new mixtapes. Select a few old favorites and mix in a few new ones and you have yourself a thoughtful, personalized gift for a partner, friend, or family member.

25. Finally, Try New Things. Always.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope you enjoyed this list. What would you add to it?