Five Inexpensive Christmas Gifts for the Depressed

by Bill Brenner on December 4, 2012

It’s easy to find Christmas gifts that poke fun at a person’s OCD. I’ve captured some good ones and bad ones in previous posts. Less easy to find are gifts that are appropriate for a person in the grips of depression.

Why are these gifts so hard to find? One reason is that if you are suffering from depression, especially from the sad, suicidal variety, gag gifts can backfire, adding to the hurt because the recipient feels they are being mocked. All gag gifts mock, mind you, but it’s easier to see the humor when the world doesn’t look like it’s about to implode.

Another reason is that we can’t always tell a person is depressed. Sufferers can be masters at masking their feelings. It’s hard to get a gift to help a person if you don’t know they need help in the first place.

But the biggest reason is that the gifts a depressed person needs usually can’t be found in the mall or on Amazon. Sure, getting stuff can make you feel good for a short while. That’s why people run up their credit cards for retail therapy. But the good feelings won’t last long if there’s a gaping hole in your soul.

With all that in mind, I’m going to take a crack at gift suggestions that might really help the depressed soul. Despite what I said about material things, those included here can a positive, almost medicinal effect. These items are based on my personal experiences. It is not meant to be the definitive word on the subject, nor is it meant to be a one-size-fits-all list.

  • A HappyLight. If the root of a person’s depression is the darkness of winter, getting them a natural-spectrum light can give them a dose of springtime. The lamp blasts a room full of the kind of light you would normally get from the sun. In 30-minute intervals, the lamp has provided me with a boost.
  • Music. For any type of depression, few therapies are as powerful as music. In my case, massive doses of hard rock gives me immense strength and comfort. The key is to be sure of what the recipient likes, be it country, classical, jazz, etc. You can deliver this gift in multiple, inexpensive ways. One is to get some blank CDs and burn some songs on to them. If you know a person’s tastes, chances are better than average that you share those tastes and have music in your collection that can be passed on.
  • Homemade treats. Find out the recipient’s favorite foods and, if you have the cooking skills, make it. Homemade will always make a more personal statement than buying something from a grocery store. My wife gets that, and if someone is having a birthday, she insists on making the cake herself. Buying from a bakery is unthinkable to her except for certain situations. But be aware that a gift like this could backfire. In my case, depression has compelled me to binge eat in the past. You don’t want to enable a person’s addictive impulses. Make sure food isn’t the problem for your recipient.
  • Your time and attention. When a person is badly depressed, the biggest source of pain is isolation and loneliness. Visit this person often, call them and, if they’re on Facebook, check in with them daily. Don’t lecture them on how blessed they really are or what kinds of vitamins they should be taking. One of my personal peeves is when someone tries to tell me about self-help books I should read. Trust me: When you’re depressed, the only reading you crave is material to help you escape. Just show up and talk about whatever. Or, better yet, just sit there and listen to them. Let them vent without trying to make judgments.
  • Space. Sometimes, a depressed person just needs space. Their depression can be made worse when people bug them with suggestions on what they should do about their problems. Just as human contact can be a powerful gift, so can solitude.

The trick with give someone who is depressed a worthwhile gift is knowing what they really need. While asking them directly may be out of the question — they’re not likely to know or be willing to ask for it — pay attention to them and you’ll find inspiration.

Charlie Brown Christmas

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Casey December 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thanks Bill! I could use this article right now!! Many could benefit from more articles like this during the gift giving season!!!

Visitor December 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

Thank you for this.

Kathryn November 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thank you for revisiting this!

I’d add comforting sensory stimuli of almost any sort – you’ve touched on music and food, but there are good tactile gifts as well. When I’m struggling with my depression it can be very difficult for me to feel connected to my body/the world and warm, soft things (slippers, mitts, throw blankets) or self care experiences (massage, girly spa stuff) help keep me grounded and feel cared for. Especially when I feel its hopeless to try to take care of myself.

Jean Gotfredson November 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm

For those who suffer from depression, there is a wonderful and helpful book entitled 75 Ways to Beat Depression by Richard Rybolt, who has experienced major depression himself. If you are not acquainted with this book, it will be the best money you ever spent and is also very inexpensive. I highly recommend it.

dc0de December 16, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Very well put together.

Andrea December 1, 2016 at 11:43 pm

My happy light was a gift and you’ve reminded me that’s past time to break it out for the season.

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