Art of Chill Holidays

20 Oh-So-Soothing Gifts for People Who Could Really Use Some Chill

For every price point.

December  7, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

It's the most wonderful time of the year—so bring on the comfort & joy, we say. In The Art of Chill Holidays, we'll show you how we keep celebrations low-key, with festive decor tricks, clever time-saving tips, and scrumptious spreads of snacks (always snacks!).

The other day, I called my little sister.

"Want to make brownies together over video chat?" I asked.

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"Can't," she said. "I have a paper due at 3:30 p.m. and I only just had a second to start it."

I looked down at my watch—it was 1:15 p.m.

"Good luck," I said, and gave my mom a call. "Brownies?" I said, shaking a bag of chocolate chips in the background suggestively, in an effort to influence her subconscious.

"Sounds fun, what type were you—" she began, and then, abruptly, "Pigeon! Get off of that rug! OH! Pigeon! No, bad dog! Pigeon do not do that on that rug right now, for the love of—" the line went dead.

An hour later, my best friend texted from L.A.: "FaceTime tonight and watch My Brilliant Friend?"

"Can't," I wrote back brusquely. "Forgot about a post due tomorrow morning—and a dinner I agreed to tonight. Death to Sunday social plans!"

According to a recent survey of 2,000 Americans, my loved ones and I are not the only ones who need to take a really deep breath these days: 88 percent of respondents noted feeling stressed out over the holiday season.

And while I can't exactly show up to everyone's workplaces (or college classrooms) to demand deadline extensions, or hypnotize tiny dogs into behaving courteously from afar, I plan to push tranquility this year by leaning into the belly of the beast itself: holiday gifts.

Here are my 20 best ideas for blissed-out gifts at every price point (and mom, if you're reading this, I'm really into the squishy cats):

Solvable Problems & Manageable Projects

The eggplant emoji, IRL. Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Adult coloring books (like this, this, or this) and a great set of colored pencils (prices vary) are like a spa day for your head: aesthetically pleasing, just structured enough while still encouraging creativity, and soothing as heck.
  • Little food puzzles (starting at $45) demand a mere 20 minutes to solve, which means a limited time commitment, but also a guaranteed 20 minutes away from cellphones, laptops, news tickers—all while staring down an adorable stalk of broccoli, or a slice of pizza.

The World's Best Lounging Vibes

Doubles as: a new best friend. Photo by Air Plant Design Studio
  • An adorable air plant (starting at $6), aka tillandsia—or even a mini terrarium ($22) full of air plants—provides a low-maintenance spot of green to someone's home or apartment.
  • A woodsy, scented smoke? Check. A 19th-century European wooden collectibles creator? Check. Tiny, adorably, festively costumed figurines? Check. These Müller Company incense & smoker sets ($96), in the shapes of bearded little men, have it all—and then some.

Something Special for Sipping (Or Snacking)

Tea for all, and for all strongly brewed tea. Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Gifting a tea subscription service (starting at $9/month) is like buying someone a regularly scheduled delivery of instant chill.

An Excellent Book—Or App—With Which to Curl Up (Plus a Blanket)

You might want to gift this along with a spatula, for licking! Photo by Rocky Luten
  • The ultimate mental vacation? A mystery novel ($18) so good, no one will want to put it down.
  • A one-year subscription to the Calm app ($60) is a four-for-one: meditation, sleep, mindful music, and relaxing tunes, all in one place.
  • Just when your loved one thinks curling up with a really great book can't get any better, introduce them to curling up with a really great book all about sweets with a copy of Genius Desserts ($35 for a signed copy).
  • Giving someone a weighted blanket ($170) is basically like giving them a big bedtime hug, every single night.

What's your go-to when you want to gift some chill? Let us know in the comments!


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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.