Holiday shopping season is now reaching its climax. Instead of being stressed at the mall, though, here are some gifts you can buy online that also benefit mental health for the recipient, using concepts from positive psychology.

Kathryn Britton wrote a great article on giving gifts to enhance mental health. She describes three key areas: “The Pleasant Life — savoring and basking, The Engaged Life — intense involvement in worthwhile activities, and The Meaningful Life — living in service of something larger than ourselves.” Here are some you can still buy with time to spare.

Pleasure doesn’t need to involve material things like chocolate (which may end up causing stress with weight gain anyway). Consider tickets to a play, sports game, concert or just the movies. You could also make up your own “gift certificates” offering to babysit, cook a meal, taking over chores for a day and other helpful tasks (I give credit to the Brownies for that idea). Don’t forget about people who may be in nursing homes or other long-term care – your promises to visit can mean a lot.

For engaging gifts that help with personal growth, consider lessons of all kinds. Workshops and night courses are great. Subscriptions to magazines are a classic gift. Art and music are everywhere – check out free resources like We Feel Fine or the Music Animation Machine that are both engaging and lovely (check out this simple Clair de lune video). Origami is a wonderfully relaxing and contemplative practice, with many patterns available online, and specialty paper sites have gift certificates too. Compiling a bookmark list or CD-ROM of good resources like self-help info, inspiring e-books (like My Stroke of Insight), and beautiful images may be nice for someone less net-savvy than you who may not know where to find stuff. Paid time in a MMORG like World of Warcraft will excite game players. Or how about something every blogger appreciates, a good statistics service?

For meaningful magnanimous gifts, travel vouchers and/or long distance credits to enable people to talk to loved ones around the globe are valuable, especially for new immigrants. Donating to a favourite charity or cause in someone’s name is a gesture of support; consider giving money and/or buying memberships to a mental health organization in your country. Or how about an electric car-sharing membership to fight global warming?

The gift of laughter enhances everyone’s mental health. Try some funny videos, with credits available at services like NetFlix, or check out some webcomics (which often offer book compilations) together.

Finally, tell someone how much you care and what you appreciate about him or her. No wrapping required, just say it and mean it. Gratitude is a gift to you both.

Thank you to Kathryn, and Alvaro, for inspiring this post!