The Anonymous Gift Experiment

It doesn’t need to be an official holiday or a special event for gifts, and there is a growing body of research about the many benefits of giving. Acts of kindness, including those in the form of gift giving, reduce stress and anger, boost the immune system, and combat anxiety and depression. It also just feels good to do something kind for another person.

Kindness is one of those traits that transcends time and place, celebrated in every major world religion and culture. An act of kindness benefits giver, receiver, and even those who are witness to the act.

For those who celebrate Christmas, some engage in a seasonal activity known as Secret Santa. People draw a name from a hat and, over a few days or weeks leading up to Christmas, they surprise a designated person with a gift, but they do so without the recipient knowing the name of the giver. This life experiment is inspired by that tradition, but it doesn’t need to wait for a certain time of year or special occasion. In fact, you get can start today.

This is a 4-week experiment.

  1. Starting today or at the beginning of the week, spend the first 2 days of the week identifying a person whom you want to surprise with a small but thoughtful gift. Your only task in day 1 and 2 is to choose the person. It can be a friend, family member, co-worker, or even a complete stranger.
  2. For days 3 and 4, observe, listen, and learn about this person, with the goal of thinking up a gift that you are confident will help, encourage, or delight the person.
  3. On days 5 and 6, make, purchase, and wrap the gift.
  4. Finally, on day 7, deliver it to the person without that person knowing it is from you.
  5. At the end of each week, take the take to reflect on the process. What did you learn about the other person? What did you learn about yourself? How did this experiment influence your mood, thoughts, and emotions? Might you want to turn this into an ongoing habit, perhaps something that you do on a schedule during certain times of the year, once every month or two, or some other timeline that makes sense to you? Or, maybe this experiment gives you ideas on how to make giving a more common and frequent part of your life.
  6. Repeat this for another person the next week.

Tips:

  • While this experiment is designed to be done with one new person a week for 4 weeks, feel free to do it as few or as many times as you like. Perhaps you only want to commit to doing it for a single person. Or, maybe you want to extend it over an entire season or year.
  • Enjoy the process of selecting the person and getting to know the person’s needs and interests.
  • The size of the gift doesn’t matter. Perhaps you even want to limit yourself to a certain dollar amount.
  • Have fun and be playful about how you package and deliver the gift. Or, if that is a barrier for you, select and order a gift online, and have it delivered to them. It could be as a simple as a small gift card with an encouraging message.
  • While you can select whomever you want, consider using this experiment to offer kindness to new people in your life, or people beyond your regular network or community.
  • Have fun. Don’t overthink it.
  • Don’t forget to take the time to reflect or even journal about your experience each week, and perhaps for a little longer at the end of the experiment.

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