10 Healthy Experience Gifts Wellness Fans Will Love
You'll surprise and delight your friends and family with these thoughtful gifts for better health.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Self-care may seem like a trendy term, but in reality nothing could be more timeless or important than taking care of your mental and physical health. Focusing on your health and wellness can include taking an exercise class, learning a few meditation tips, or exploring the world on a nature hike.
“Self-care is essential to quality of life, resilience, and productivity,” says Jane Pernotto Ehrman, a behavioral health therapist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “It’s our responsibility to take care of our needs. We live in a culture that often encourages selflessness, doing for others but not ourselves. It’s important to remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to have the energy to do anything for or with other people. And the self-care practices of meditation, yoga, and massage actually reduce the symptoms of depression.”
But here’s the thing: When we’re not showing off our #selfcare on Instagram, it can actually be quite hard for us to unplug and give in to what our brains and body truly need. Which is: a break. Gifts for better health can be the best way to show wellness fans you care about them. Research, including a study published in 2016 in the Journal of Consumer Research, suggests that giving experience gifts over material items strengthens the relationship between the gift-giver and the recipient.
We’ve rounded up the 10 best experience gifts. (Note: Not all of these are available during Covid-19. Before purchasing, check to make sure they will be, post-pandemic.) Each one promotes a more balanced, less stressed life. And who doesn’t need that right about now? Oh, and by all means, gift these to yourself, too.
Healthy cooking classes
Resolving to eat healthier is usually a top New Year’s resolution for most people. Help aspiring foodies get a head start on their 2021 goals by treating them to a healthy cooking class to learn new healthy cooking methods tips and tricks that make cooking a healthier, more enjoyable experience. Not only will it be a fun night out, they’ll feel more empowered to give it a go at home. And this can be crucially important, especially during the holidays. (Nutrition is just one aspect of the dimensions of wellness—learn what the others are.)
“People who engage in these kinds of activities are less likely to do emotional eating or overindulge,” says Ehrman. “When people sign up for a cooking class, where they’re going to learn how to pair great foods and prepare them in healthy ways, they are going to have a better mental attitude and mood.” Sur La Table offers gift certificates to a variety of cooking classes nationwide—both in-store and online—that will appeal to just about any palate.
Yearlong pass to U.S. National Parks
While you might be feeling pretty cozy indoors this time of year, getting outside does a body good. The benefits of walking, even for a few minutes, are hard to beat.
Research shows that spending time outdoors can help improve your memory, lessen feelings of depression, and reduce inflammation in the body. One small study found that when subjects with major depressive disorders spent time walking in nature, they showed significant increases in overall mood. Research on people without depression, meanwhile, showed similar mood- and esteem-boosting effects.
For those who love a good nature walk or hike, consider gifting a year-long pass to the National Parks. This experience gift gives them access to more than 2,000 sites.
We don’t have to tell you why a massage makes a good gift. The chance to zone out while quite literally feeling the tension leave your body is always going to be a winning experience gift. Too often, a massage is one of those things we know is good for us. And yet we rarely schedule the time for it. Make it easy for someone in your life to take the advantage of this soothing self-care experience. Surprise them with a treatment at a local spa they love. Or consider a gift certificate to Zeel, which offers in-home massages nationwide.
And remember: A massage is more than just an indulgent escape. There are health benefits of massage, too. A review of studies in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that feel-good hormones like dopamine increased and stress hormones decreased by 31 percent following a massage.
At-home DNA kit
For the friend or family member who’s always digging in the past to piece together their family tree, a DNA kit may be just the thing to satisfy their curiosity about where they come from. Plus, DIY DNA testing can tell you not only more about your ancestry, but also if you’re potentially predisposed to certain conditions.
At-home genetics company 23andMe, for instance, offers “Health + Ancestry Service” reports. It can tell you if you’re at a higher genetic risk of developing certain diseases (though you should always consult a geneticist to discuss your results). It can be serious stuff. But sometimes knowing what’s lurking in our DNA may help us make better health decisions now.
A solid skin care routine has become synonymous with self-care time these days and there’s good reason: Taking care of your skin is a way to take care of you. And anytime you prioritize your own well-being, that’s a very good thing. The same goes for the people in your life. Gifting a facial will allow a loved one to book some time to check in with themselves and feel the restorative benefits of walking out with a fresh face. (Bonus: If your giftee struggles with acne or other skin concerns, a facial may help lessen the anxiety they have around their skin, according to one study.) Heyday, a skin care and facial destination in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, offers gift certificates to treat someone to much-needed me-time.
Private meditation session
Let’s be honest: Sometimes when we’re trying to Zen out to a meditation podcast or app, we’re never quite sure we’re doing it right. And while meditation is a practice that does take time to master, it doesn’t hurt to get a little help from the pros. Plus, investing in a regular meditation routine is an experience gift that truly keeps on giving. Numerous studies have shown that meditation has an impressive list of benefits, from lessening symptoms of depression or as a natural remedy to reducing blood pressure. Meditation studios offering live-streaming classes include MNDFL and Meditation Bar.
A relaxing night in
Sometimes all we need is permission to do nothing, even if that’s just at home. The Lather Wellness Retreat gift set offers the chance to unwind without having to go anywhere. This de-stressor kit will turn any bathroom into an oasis with tension-relieving bath salts, soothing body balms, and candles to set the stage for the ultimate at-home wellness experience. It’s perfect for those who always seem to be short on time and want to squeeze in a little self-care when they find themselves with a spare hour. And it makes a difference: “When we give ourselves the gift of activities that help us to relieve stress, we sleep better and our immune systems are more balanced,” says Ehrman.
Sometimes the only way to really de-stress is to get away from it all. And a wellness retreat may be just the thing. The R&R Retreat at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for example, is the kind of feel-good escape everyone needs from time to time. With daily yoga, healthy meals, introspective workshops, and activities, it’s a 360-self-care experience gift that will, without question, leave you more rejuvenated and restored than when you arrived. The real goal here is to give the gift of unplugging.
“Too often we are trying to escape,” says Ehrman. “And we run away through screens—our phones, our tablets, our TVs. But when we finally have the chance to get into that quiet place—by dropping into our body and our breath with yoga, by quieting everything and focusing on gratitude, or going for a walk and getting out of your head—it enables us to really connect with knowing who we are and what we need in a way that our culture does not encourage.”
$85-$95 per day
Salt cave spa day
Sure, you could gift someone a day at any spa and they’ll enjoy it. But consider upgrading the typical spa day with a trip to a salt cave, designed to look and feel like the original ones in the Himalayas. The goal is to breathe in the refined air, which may help improve respiratory issues, from asthma, colds, or allergies, according to the Salt Therapy Association (which also has a list of locations nationwide). While the science on salt caves is limited, consider it another way to hit reset on stress and find more balance.
Workout class or personal training session
If someone on your gift list has aspirations to up their fitness game next year, first up: Congratulate them. There are so many health benefits of exercise. And it’s a noble goal for anyone who’s ready to change their couch potato ways.
Not only does regular exercise help improve your health now, it also helps you live longer. A study, published in 2018 in JAMA Network Open, found that people with better cardiorespiratory fitness had a lower risk of mortality during the study than those who were less fit.
Gifting a yoga class or a one-on-one personal training session can help ease someone back into a regular routine. But let’s face it, the pandemic has made that tricky. Instead, gift them a Classpass gift card that will allow them to choose a live class from a top-rated studio for real-time instruction, or start an on-demand workout class when it works for their schedule.
- Jane Pernotto Ehrman, a behavioral health therapist at Cleveland Clinic
- Journal of Consumer Research: "Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships Than Material Gifts"
- International Journal of Neuroscience: "Cortisol Decreases And Serotonin And Dopamine Increase Following" Massage Therapy
- Biomedical Research: "The facial massage reduced anxiety and negative mood status, and increased sympathetic nervous activity"
- Journal of Affective Disorders: "Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression"
- Environmental Science Technology: "What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis."
- JAMA Network Open: "Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing"