A nice thing to do in January

Do you have a list of ideas for presents that people can buy you? I don’t know how common this is, but I have such a list. In the run-up to Christmas and my birthday, I update it to share with family and anybody else who asks for suggestions about what to buy me.

Perhaps I’m unusually materialistic and determined to take the spontaneity out of festive occasions. But I figure that gift-buying involves initiative and decision-making, which means it drains your cognitive tank. And Christmas for many people involves buying multiple gifts for multiple people, which means a big drain on that tank. So if I offer some ideas, I’m doing potential gift-givers a favour.

Yes, there are people who express their creativity through buying and/or making gifts, people who enjoy it and don’t find it an energy drain. If you’re one of those people, you’re free to disregard any suggestion lists – but be aware that you’re probably in the minority.

Oh, and if you’re someone who feels guilty about using people’s gift idea lists because it’s “a cop-out” or “doesn’t show I’ve put any thought into it”, you should be aware that people think you’re more thoughtful if you buy them gifts selected from a list they’ve written themselves. Weird but true.

If you have a gift idea list of your own, here’s a nice thing to do in January: look at the list again, pick something you didn’t get for Christmas, and buy it for yourself.

This January my gift to myself was three books of detective fiction about a certain gentleman sleuth. Light, undemanding, escapist stuff. I got them second-hand from Green Metropolis and the total cost (including postage) was £11.25. How much you spend is up to you, obviously.

I don’t like the idea of starting the year with a punishing diet or fitness regime. January is already one of the most gloomy months of the year. Be kind to yourself, and maybe buy yourself a little gift. Choosing it won’t take up much cognitive resource if you’re picking it from a list you’ve already written!

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