At the end of a rough year, holiday cheer might seem hard to find. The strains and stresses of everyday life may try to overshadow the joy of Christmas. And in 2020, we’ve collectively had to deal with situations that go above and beyond “everyday” challenges.
You don’t have to let pre-epiphany Scrooge be your model, though.
If you’re looking to put the spark back into your holiday season, it’s time to take on some magic-making of your own. Holiday cheer is a spirit that you can create.
You do it by spreading love and kindness to the people around you.
The Magic of Holiday Cheer
If you’re having a hard time this Christmas, know that you’re not alone. Others are probably struggling, too. By carrying out an act of kindness, you can brighten someone’s day. The more often you do such things, the more spirits you’ll gladden.
Spreading cheer to others rewards you as well.
There’s a warm feeling that comes when you do kind or generous things for others. And it’s more than just a fleeting sensation. Acts of kindness actually produce long-term health and wellness benefits.
Christmas Cheer and Mental Health
Making a difference for others reminds you that you have an important role to play in this world. Your contributions matter. That can boost your self-esteem.
It can also increase your sense of connection to the world around you. You’ll develop a stronger assurance that you belong, whether to your family, your community or the world at large.
Sometimes, acts of kindness can even help you make new friends.
Being kind to others can also cheer you up. Studies show that happy people who do good things for others become even happier. If you need a mood pick-me-up, doing good deeds is a great way to go about it.
When you serve people who are in tough spots, you might start to gain a greater appreciation of how many blessings you have in your own life. That can increase your gratitude.
And scientific research links gratitude to greater satisfaction with life and decreased depression.
Holiday Kindness for Better Physical Health
While it might seem that most of the benefits from spreading love and cheer center on your mental health, your physical body can reap the rewards, too. That’s because your mental health and physical health are closely linked.
For example, depression and other mood disorders can exacerbate physical symptoms, such as chronic pain and stomach problems.
Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and an increased chance of heart disease. It may also contribute to poor sleep quality.
In fact, statistics show that lonely people have a 26% higher chance of premature death.
By building connections and spreading joy through acts of holiday cheer, you may be able to reverse these physical trends for yourself.
How to Spread Kindness & Cheer
If you’re ready to start spreading holiday cheer, it’s time to make a plan. Pick one item off this list or try out several. You could also use the following suggestions as a springboard to create your own plan this holiday season.
But whatever you do, opt for acts of kindness that fit your personality and interests. You’re more likely to reap better benefits from activities that you truly enjoy doing.
Donate to senior care centers.
Not all nursing home residents receive regular contact from their families. But staff members sometimes try to brighten the holidays with small gifts or stockings.
You may be able to drop off puzzle books, toiletries, perfume, snacks, fruit, socks or other goodies for the employees to distribute.
Call ahead to ask whether a facility is accepting donations and, if so, what items they could use.
Ring bells for loose change.
Charitable organizations often need volunteers who can stand near store entrances to collect monetary donations from shoppers. This season, bundle up for a shift at a shopping center near you.
To draw attention to the cause, you could ring bells, sing Christmas carols or wear a festive costume.
In light of the pandemic, though, skip this activity if you’re at a higher risk for getting sick. Prolonged exposure to shoppers could be a health risk.
The Salvation Army notes on its website that kettle ringers may be few and far between this year. But if you feel compelled to help out, check in with your local chapter for more info.
Serve meals to people in need.
There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal to warm your belly. Unfortunately, too many Americans don’t have the luxury of knowing where their next meal will come from. You can provide relief by volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Tasks might include sorting donations, cooking meals, filling trays or washing dishes.
If you can’t volunteer in person, your contributions of money or nonperishable food might be welcome as well. Plus, this is a service project that you can continue throughout the year and even get your older kids involved in.
Pick out presents for kids or teens.
And speaking of kids, if you have extra room in your gift-giving budget, use it to brighten the holiday of a local youth in need.
Drop off new toys with an organization that does gift giveaways, or personalize your donation by seeking out a group that shares kids’ wish lists with willing gift-givers.
You may even be able to find a charity that will allow you to adopt an entire family so you can bless both the kids and the parents with holiday presents.
Shovel someone’s driveway.
Live in an icy part of the country? When the snow starts to fall, your neighbors with mobility issues could probably use a helping hand.
Grab a shovel and some rock salt so you can clear their driveways and walkways.
Keep the kindness going all year long by mowing lawns in the summer, raking leaves in the fall and running errands whenever needed.
Put out a basket for delivery personnel.
The holidays are one of the busiest times for delivery drivers. Thank these service providers for their efforts by leaving a basket of goodies on your front porch.
You could include individually packaged snacks, bottled water and travel-size hand sanitizer. It’s a small gesture that could mean a lot to someone pulling long hauls and even longer days this time of year.
Just remember to make a sign so drivers know to help themselves to a treat!
Shop at stores that give back.
You’re buying gifts anyway, so why not take the opportunity to make a charitable donation at the same time? Many brick-and-mortar and online stores donate a portion of sales to charity.
When shopping locally, prioritize shops that regularly contribute to community causes.
And on that subject, consider shopping small this holiday season to support your local economy.
Many businesses have been hard hit by the pandemic, in more ways than one. Mom-and-pop stores and area restaurants have likely been hit the hardest. If you’re not comfortable eating out at a restaurant yet, get a gift card to use later.
There’s nothing wrong with shopping at chain retailers, of course. But supporting the businesses where you live could make a significant difference in your neighbors’ livelihood — and in turn, their welfare.
Bake treats for neighbors.
While you’re thinking about your neighbors, consider dropping off a treat on their porches this year. If you’re already baking a batch of cookies, double the recipe to spread some festive cheer. You’ll end up with twice as many goodies without doing twice as much work.
Then, box up the extras and drop them on nearby porches with a cheerful holiday greeting. (Don’t forget to list any common allergens, like nuts or milk, just to be safe.)
Increase your tips.
A few extra dollars could help some people put something special under the tree for their families this Christmas. Whether you’re ordering grocery delivery, picking up a curbside meal or eating at a restaurant, consider adding an extra 5% or 10% to your standard tip this season.
Include others in your holiday celebrations.
The holidays can be a lonely time for anyone who doesn’t have family nearby. Asking some of those people to share your holiday meal can bring joy to both of you. And in a normal year, this is a nice gesture.
But if you can’t ask others to join you around the table this year, then consider other ways you might include people in your festivities.
Deliver plates of your holiday dinner to neighbors you know live alone, or offer to pick up a meal for someone who doesn’t drive. And if you know a friend or two who might be spending the holidays alone, set up a video call to invite them to a virtual family meal.
The more Christmas cheer you give away, the better you’ll feel. This December, put the sparkle back in your holiday season through acts of kindness for others.