10 Healthy Experience Gifts Wellness Fans Will Love
You'll surprise and delight your friends and family with these thoughtful gifts that have real health benefits.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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, meditating, 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 and not ourselves, but 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: a break. Giving the gift of wellness can be the best thing you can do for someone else. (Added bonus: Research suggests, like this 2016 study in the Journal of Consumer Research, that giving experience gifts over material items strengthens the relationship between the gifter and the recipient.) We’ve rounded up the 10 best experience gifts that promote a more balanced, less stressed life. And who doesn’t need that? (Oh, and by all means, gift these to yourself, too.)
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 because it’s too often one of those things we know is good for us, yet we rarely schedule the time to do. Make it easy for someone in your life to take the advantage of this soothing self-care experience by surprising 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. It has real health benefits too: A review in the International Journal of Neuroscience suggested that, following a massage, stress hormones in the body decreased by 31 percent and feel-good hormones like dopamine increased.
A solid skincare routine has become synonymous with self-care 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 new skincare and facial destination in New York, Philadelphia, and LA, offers gift certificates to treat someone to much-needed me-time.
Facials start at $65
Private meditation session
Let’s be honest: Sometimes when we’re trying to zen out to a meditation podcast or app or simply quiet our mind on our own, we’re not 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 reducing blood pressure to lessening symptoms of depression. Meditation studios are popping up all over the country, so search for a studio in your area that offers private or group sessions, like MNDFL in New York or the Meditation Bar in Austin, Texas.
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. In fact, research has shown that spending time outside 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 exhibited significant increases in overall mood. And research on individuals without depression have yielded similarly promising results on nature’s impact on one’s mood and self-esteem. 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.
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 we all need to do from time to time. With daily yoga, healthy meals, introspective workshops and activities (Himalayan Bowl Sound Meditation, anyone?) 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, but is so necessary.”
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 2020 goals by treating them to a healthy cooking class to learn new 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. “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 how to 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 that will appeal to just about any palate.
A relaxing night in
Sometimes all we need is permission to do nothing, even if that’s just at home. The Lather Wellness Retreat 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 permission and the gift of wonderful activities that will help us to relieve our stress, we sleep better and our immune systems are more balanced,” says Ehrman.
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 they need 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 Predisposition” reports which 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.
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 to working out, and it’s 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 2018 Cleveland Clinic study found the 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. Because let’s face it: Sometimes the hardest part of getting back in the gym is knowing where to start, and a low-intensity class or personal instruction can go a long way in relieving those newbie jitters. You can help with this stocking stuffer: a Classpass gift card that will allow them to choose the class that suits them best.
- Jane Pernotto Ehrman, a behavioral health therapist, 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"