xmas3So far many of our wellbeing and connection messages have been about the importance of non-material support in relationships. But our research has shown how material support such as gifts and presents can have a role too. Around Christmas we tend to spend a lot of money on things that no one needs, but presents that are well thought out can be extremely beneficial for wellbeing.

In our Birth Companions evaluation , we heard how the Birth Companions service provides things that new mothers may need, through a project called PramDepot alongside other emotional and practical support. New babies can be expensive, and many new mothers that Birth Companions works with are receiving benefits, or are asylum seekers and have no access to welfare benefits, struggling to find money to get the things they and their baby needs. Others might not know what they need to get because they are first time mums with little or no other social support. Giving practical goods like this can lift such a burden of stress from women who are often struggling to cope. Below are a couple of quotes to demonstrate the importance of material goods to participants from the Birth Companions study

“I don’t have anything to take in the hospital for the baby, for me.  So from there they started to offer me help, give me clothes, like maternity clothes, give me bag for me, bag to take in the hospital, like something like nappies…”

“I was eight months pregnant…I was worried about everything to be honest because I did not have pushchair, clothes for my baby and I didn’t know nothing… And they brought me everything…when you have then everything, it’s amazing you know.”

Case Study: “Giving someone a thoughtful present can really make them feel valued and cared for”

karenA few weeks ago I was having a bad day. It was cold and grey and I had to get up early to travel two hours across London for a meeting. It was a stressful time. I had started a new job and was also trying to finish my PhD, and to be honest, just wanted to stay in bed. When I got out of the station it was raining (which felt like the end of the world that day). I didn’t have an umbrella or a proper coat and so got soaked on the way to the meeting. I sat there shivering and cold and was feeling very miserable. But everything changed when on our way out someone came up to me, pulled her umbrella out of her bag and said
“I want you to have this”.  I tried to refuse, but she insisted I take it. That umbrella kept me dry for the rest of the day, and it still does now. Every time I take it out I think of the woman who gave it to me, and it makes me smile.

Giving someone a thoughtful present can really make them feel valued and cared for. It doesn’t have to be much. Even if you don’t know someone very well just the act of giving them something- particularly something useful- can make a big difference. It is a way of showing you are thinking of them. And if it is a present that will last (like my umbrella), it will always be there to remind them that you care.

Karen James, Senior researcher, McPin Foundation

Practical tips

  • Materials things can improve someone’s mental and physical wellbeing by lifting a weight of worry from their mind. Do you have things you no longer need that you can donate to your local clothes bank or Charity shop? Or give to a charity of your choice that can provide someone in need with something they need this Christmas.
  •  You could do a food shop for someone, or buy someone a coffee or lunch because you know they can’t afford it, but don’t want to let that stop them coming out and socialising.
  • Another useful present is a train ticket so someone who’s feeling lonely or down can visit a friend that isn’t necessarily nearby or easily accessible.