Spending time with family, gifts under the tree – for many people, Christmas is about doing something good for their loved ones and others. Jolana Wagner-Skacel, newly appointed professor of medical psychology, psychosomatics and psychotherapy at the Medical University of Graz, explains why people actually like to give so much to each other. According to the expert, this is mainly due to the fact that humans are social creatures. Emotional bonds are needed to maintain psychological and therefore physical health.

“We are dependent on others from birth. Closeness, care and affection encourage the development of emotional, mental and social skills,” explains Wagner-Skacel. That is why giving gifts on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas has become established in world cultures. As a social ritual, gift-giving is associated with rules and expectations in the social environment. It plays out in a variety of ways.The act of giving can be divided into three parts, each focusing on different aspects of the relationship.

Gift in stages

In order to find the right gift, people must first know the person they want to give the gift to. What are your interests, what common experiences have you shared? The gift creates an “image” of the person receiving the gift and the relationship between people.

Gift giving itself is also linked to emotional development. In the best case scenario, a moment happens together that strengthens or confirms the bond between two people. However, it is out of the question to expect anything in return: “What makes giving special is the act of giving without expecting anything in return. “The gift gains value because it has a special impact on the person receiving the gift,” says Wagner-Skacel, describing the gift-giving process.

The final stage is gratitude. The person receiving the gift can clearly show how valuable the gift is to them and feel comfortable in the relationship. “The basic requirement is the ability to say thank you. Our creative input is needed to experience this. We need to actively engage with this fundamental state of mind,” says Wagner-Skacel, describing the value of gratitude.

Value of the gift

It’s important to emphasize that gifts don’t have to have any monetary value, especially during the Christmas season when giving is so important. Spending time together is the greatest gift for many families. The phenomenon of giving is determined not only by the act of giving, but also by the way of receiving a gift and the way of sharing the pleasure of receiving a gift.

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