7 Mood-Boosting Gifts

Thoughtful Ideas for Loved Ones Dealing With Depression

When someone you care about is struggling with a mood disorder such as depression or is facing an excess of stress or anxiety, the holidays or any other gift-giving occasion can be a great opportunity to offer not only your support but also a tangible item to help that person cope.

Here are some ideas that not only have some science to back up their spirit-lifting potential but also make lovely, loving gifts.

1

Gift Certificate for a Massage

Person receiving arm massage

BraunS / Getty Images 

There's no question a rubdown can work wonders for muscle kinks, but research shows the beneficial effects of massage don't stop there. Research suggests that a single-session massage lasting 20 to 30 minutes can lower levels of cortisol, the brain chemical that's released in response to stress. Another study found that levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps alleviate pain, increased by 28%.

In a study of teen athletes, those who had regular massage therapy sessions experienced significant decreases in levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

There are many types of massage, though, so make sure you purchase a gift certificate for one that focuses on relaxation rather than, say, deep-tissue massage.

2

Inviting Journal

Journal with pen resting on table

 Asawin_Klabma / Getty Images

For someone who enjoys keeping a diary or likes to jot down thoughts throughout the day, a blank book with an inviting cover might be a perfect and potentially uplifting gift.

Journaling is a technique sometimes used by therapists to help patients dealing with mental or emotional issues organize their thoughts and work through issues they may be ruminating about. Some journals come with writing prompts or inspirational quotes, which might offer another incentive to put pen to paper for some people.

One study found that people who engaged in expressive writing, which focuses on writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings related to emotional events, showed immediate and significant decreases in scores of depression. Additionally, these benefits were still present four weeks later, suggesting that the beneficial impact may be lasting.

3

Essential Oils and Diffuser

Oil diffuser on table with various succulents

 belchonock / Getty Images

Certain scents have been singled out for having a positive impact on mood and so there's been a good deal of research looking at the value of aromatherapy as part of a treatment protocol for depression. Lavender, in particular, has been lauded for its potential feel-good effects.

A gift of high-quality essential oils and attractive diffuser could make a gift that's both lovely to look at and relaxing to use.

4

Meditation CD

Woman meditating wearing headphones

FatCamera / Getty Images 

There's growing evidence that mindfulness meditation can help relieve depression. Sitting quietly and being "in the moment" can be inherently relaxing and helpful for managing feelings of stress and anxiety.

Research has found that meditation actually can bring about physical changes in the brain in areas of the brain associated with stress and sense of self in as little as eight weeks.

There are lots of guided meditations to choose from, so unless you have a favorite yourself, consider gifting a CD from one of the masters, such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Branch, or Pema Chodron.

5

Change of Greenery

Woman strolling through the woods

MarioGuti / Getty Images

Exposure to nature—such as a walk in the woods, a stroll along the beach, a visit to a botanical garden, or a dig in a garden—can have a profound effect on mood. Even having potted plants around the house or in a person's workspace has been found to improve well-being, lower blood pressure, increase productivity, and more.

Some nice greens for gifting include golden pothos, arrowhead vine, Chinese evergreen, dracaena, philodendron, snake plant, peace lily, and vinca vine.

6

Gift Certificate for Yoga Classes

Women in yoga class

 fizkes / Getty Images

According to Harvard Medical School, there's ample evidence that doing yoga can lower stress and anxiety. Since there are so many types of yoga, do a little research before gifting classes to someone, especially if you know they are new to the practice.

Find a studio with a good beginner's or basic class, or one that offers restorative yoga—a form of yoga that focuses solely on putting the body into fully-relaxed poses. 

7

Furry Friend

Woman walking bulldog

 Maskot / Getty Images

Pets offer an array of mood-modulating benefits: Walking a dog gets you outdoors and forces you to be active, and simply cuddling or petting an animal of any type can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, and soothe depression.

Before giving someone an animal, always make absolutely certain a person has the means, interest, and ability to care for an animal both in the short- and long-term.

Be sure to consider adopting a dog or cat from a shelter to give it a forever home.

A Word From Verywell

There are many things that you can do to support a friend or loved one with depression or anxiety. Mood-boosting gifts can be helpful, but there are also many day-to-day things that you can do that can have a major impact on your friend's well-being.

Some other things you can do include offering to take care of tasks (such as running errands or helping around the house) and reaching out to talk (either in person, on the phone, or through text). Being a steady source of love and support is an important way to let someone know that you care and that they are an important part of your life.

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  2. Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci. 2005; 115(10):1397-1413. doi:10.1080/00207450590956459

  3. Zadkhosh SM, Ariaee E, Atri AE, Rashidlamir A, Saadatyar A. The effect of massage therapy on depression, anxiety and stress in adolescent wrestlers. International Journal of Sport Studies. 2015;5(3):321-327.

  4. Krpan KM, Kross E, Berman MG, Deldin PJ, Askren MK, Jonides J. An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: the benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorderJ Affect Disord. 2013;150(3):1148-1151. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.05.065

  5. Sanchez-Vidana DI, et al. The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017;5869315. doi:10.1155/2017/5869315

  6. Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi:10.1155/2013/681304

  7. Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, et al. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res. 2011;191(1):36-43. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

  8. Lee MS, Lee J, Park BJ, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover studyJ Physiol Anthropol. 2015;34(1):21. doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8

  9. Brooks H, Rushton K, Walker S, Lovell K, Rogers A. Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry. 2016;16(1):409. doi:10.1186/s12888-016-1111-3

Additional Reading
  • Harvard Health Publishing. Yoga for anxiety and depression. Harvard Mental Health Letter. Harvard Medical School website. Published April 2009. Updated May 2018.