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Though we mean well, sometimes holiday shopping can be a guilt-ridden activity. Maybe you spent too much. Maybe not enough. Maybe you over-indulged on yourself.

Many say shopping is their form of therapy, and perhaps those folks are onto something.

On many levels, holiday shopping is just a capitalism-driven activity that also lets you show your appreciation for those around you. Yet, it could be a therapeutic form of self-improvement… if you let it.

Our survey confirms that shopping truly is “therapy” for many people, and can help raise one’s spirits after a bad day. Online shopping makes this pick-me-up only a couple of clicks away.

To get more out of your shopping and sale indulgences Top 10 Sites for Online Coupons & Promotional Codes Top 10 Sites for Online Coupons & Promotional Codes It can be difficult to find the coupon codes you want when you need them most. Here are some quality websites dedicated to finding discounts and collecting coupons. Read More this year, consider a more self-aware approach to gift-buying.

Here are eight ways you can make holiday shopping a form of self-improvement.

Make Your Gifts Meaningful

The phrase “it’s the thought that counts” is not just a tired cliche when it comes to gift giving. The most meaningful gifts are the ones that really have some thought behind them. Sure, you could buy everyone on your list a version of the same cool new gadget, but where’s the thought in that?

If you take the time to think about the person you’re giving a gift to, it makes all the difference in the world. Online gift registries such as Giftster can be a good place to start.

giftster app

What are that person’s likes and interests? What sort of inside information do you know about them that will make that person really appreciate a gift?

Considering what gifts would have real meaning to your friends and family will not only make their presents better, but can also help you be a more kind and empathetic person.

Download — Giftster for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)

Practice Setting Goals

Holiday shopping, of course, isn’t the most stressful thing in the world, but there’s no denying it can be tedious.

When looking at your shopping list, all the gifts you need to buy and places you need to visit can pile up and become somewhat overwhelming.

In situations like this, task manager apps such as Any.do come in handy. Such apps will help you stay on task, let you easily make and keep track of lists, and even send you reminders across all your devices.

any do app

Holiday shopping is one of those things you may not always want to do, but setting goals in the form of a to-do list is a helpful way to tackle the task.

Not only will it help you knock out your shopping, but it will also get you in the habit of setting goals and getting things done in other areas of your life as well.

Download — Any.do for iOS (Free with in-app purchases) | Android (Free with in-app purchases)

Buy Refurbished or Used Gifts

At first glance, giving someone a used or refurbished gift may seem like the cheap and easy way out. But think about it: doing so helps you buy gifts in a more sustainable or environmentally friendly way, which you can always take pride in. Not to mention, you can save yourself a good chunk of change.

You’ll want to pick your spots, of course. For example, a used pair of jeans likely won’t have the same gravitas as a refurbished smartphone or tablet. If you are seeking refurbished tech products, a few options to check out are:

vuports website

But if you’re more interested in buying used clothes and apparel, you might want to look into:

thred up

Challenge Yourself to Remain Stress-Free

Holiday shopping isn’t stressful in the same way that work deadlines or a dire family situation might be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not taxing in its own way.

The truth is, while shopping isn’t a life-or-death matter, it can cause stress and anxiety that lead to real health problems.

With that in mind, challenge yourself to do your shopping only when you feel good about it or when you have your stress under control. This way, when you watch your friends and family open their presents, you can feel good about what you selected for them, rather than only remembering how annoying it was to track down that item, wait in line to buy it, etc.

If you need help managing your stress, MakeUseOf has many helpful posts on apps and websites 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind You are not alone if you have you ever felt stuck in your thoughts? Like you're trudging and not able to make any headway. Calming, thought-organizing apps can rescue the mind. Read More that can help you relax and practice stress-management Feeling Overwhelmed? Here Are 5 Relaxing Corners of the Web Feeling Overwhelmed? Here Are 5 Relaxing Corners of the Web The Internet can be a nasty place, but it doesn't have to be. Little corners remain, where you can just go and relax. Read More .

Work on Your Communication Skills

Anyone who has been shopping on Black Friday knows it can bring out the worst in people. The pressure and stress of the situation cause many to forget it’s supposed to be a joyful time of year, often leading to rude behavior.

Well, they say communication is the key when it comes to relationships. Particularly for introverts, shopping can be a good time to simply deliver a smile or make small talk with fellow customers or cashiers. It can help you become more comfortable approaching others in public situations while also making you a better overall communicator.

One app you can use to work on your communication skills before you head out shopping is Elevate: Brain Training.

The app features games and drills that help you work on cognitive skills that lead to better communication. One of the brain exercises involves active listening. You have to pay attention to dialog and categorize subtopics within main topics.

elevate app

Download — Elevate: Brain Training for iOS (Free with Pro options) | Android (Free with in-app purchases)

Learn to Deal With Negativity

Unfortunately, not all shoppers you run into will be looking to work on their communication skills. On the contrary, you’re very likely to run into at least one person at the mall or on the road that either seems overly bitter with the world or thinks everything should revolve around them.

Negativity is bad, of course. But you don’t have to let it affect you. Apps such as Negative to Positive can help you erase negative thought patterns by way of brain science.

negative to positive

During the busy shopping season, you’re bound to run into at least a little — and likely a lot of — negativity. Put another way, however, dealing with not-so-friendly holiday shoppers can be a good way to practice positivity and cheer.

Download — Negative to Positive for iOS (Free with in-app purchases)

Take Your Time

It can happen in any situation: You have a set of goals or a to-do list, and you want to get it all done that afternoon. While you of course want to be efficient and not waste any time, this thought process can cause you to rush rather than enjoy the moment. Rather than sweating your face off, slow down Join the Slow Tech Movement to Cure Your Hectic Life Join the Slow Tech Movement to Cure Your Hectic Life We invented the technologies that we use today to help us live better lives, not to become slaves to them. The slow tech movement will help you take back control of your life. Read More and pay attention to the moment.

Exercise Your Money Management

Money management skills 10 Money Management Tools Inside Google Drive You Should Use Today 10 Money Management Tools Inside Google Drive You Should Use Today The problem with money is that if you don't manage it, you end up without it. How about some useful money management tools to help you get started right inside your Google Drive account? Read More are helpful no matter the time of the year. But they come in particularly handy during the holiday season. Getting into the habit of planning a personal budget to keep yourself from overspending is a skill you can practice during the holidays but use year-round.

There are plenty of money management apps available. One is Mint, from Intuit, the makers of financial software TurboTax and QuickBooks. The Mint app helps you spend your money smarter 5 More Personal Finance Budget Apps for Your iPhone [Digital Dollar] 5 More Personal Finance Budget Apps for Your iPhone [Digital Dollar] If you have an iDevice and need to be tracking how much money you spend, the iTunes App Store has lots of offerings in this category. Below are five budgeting apps, each with something unique... Read More , easily track your savings, create budgets and set up bill reminders.

mint

Download — Mint for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)

What Self-Improvement Activities Will You Accomplish While Shopping?

Holiday shopping can be daunting for a variety of reasons. Avoiding crowds, along with convenience, is one reason why online holiday shopping continues to soar 7 Interesting Stats on Modern Online Shopping Habits 7 Interesting Stats on Modern Online Shopping Habits Online shopping is taking over the world. Here are a few mind-boggling statistics that prove it. Read More .

Yet when you think of holiday shopping as something that can help you improve yourself in a variety of ways, there’s really no reason to do it all online.

If nothing else, going out holiday shopping is likely a tradition you grew up with. Take a bit of it offline. Consider getting nostalgic and doing at least a little bit of it on foot.

You just might find a way to work on your self-awareness while you’re at it.

What do you learn about yourself when you are holiday shopping? Tell us in the comments section below. 

Image Credits: Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

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