The season of winter holidays – Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza and any others – is often referred to as the season of giving. Giving is really emphasized during the holidays – giving to charities, giving gifts (as you will hear every single retailer tell you from the end of October through December), giving time, giving wishes of good cheer, and so on. Not only is giving a great thing for others, studies have shown that when we give, we actually feel better and happier ourselves. In the season that can also be extremely harried and chaotic, having a little “giving boost” can do wonders for your sanity!
Here are some suggestions for thinking of others during this season:
- Instead of a traditional Advent calendar, try doing a Random Acts of Kindness Advent calendar. There are tons of ideas out there for things you can do – leaving happy notes, paying it forward, making cards for soldiers or people in nursing homes, donating toys, doing something nice for a family member – the possibilities are endless! If you don’t want to create your own list, a simple Google search will provide you LOTS of pre-existing and printable lists all ready to go for the season.
- If there is a cause you care about, and you want to donate to a charity, check out Charity Navigator to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for the buck
- Another charity-related idea is to give the gift of a donation to the person that “has everything”. Maybe there’s a cause they care about, or something that is near and dear to their heart. A donation to a meaningful organization can be worth so much more than another thing under the tree.
- Shop charities’ gift shops for presents or stocking stuffers. You get to give the recipient something that they’d like, while also supporting a cause that is important to you. Some of my favorites are St. Jude and the World Wildlife Fund
- Volunteer locally. It’s great helping out a cause you care about while also getting involved in your community. Volunteering is really the gift that keeps on giving. Check out volunteermatch.org for organizations near you that align with your interests and are looking for volunteers.
- Instead of a gift swap at your holiday party, collect food or clothing (hats, mittens, scarves, coats) to donate. Generally gift swaps include gifts that no one really needs (or wants) so rather than accumulating more things for yourself, use this opportunity to give to those who do need things this holiday season. Check out the Feeding America website to find a local food bank, or do a quick google search for clothing donations to find a place near you.
- Buy gifts that are certified Fair Trade to support people around the globe. Fair trade means that what you buy is sold at a fair price, and supports producers in developing countries. By earning a fair price, workers and farmers are able to make a decent living and create better lives for themselves.
- Animals can use some love during the holidays too (even if they’re not your own). 😉 Bring blankets, food, or toys to your local animal shelter – although you may want to check with them first to see if they have any restrictions.
- The holidays can be a very busy time, so consider taking up meditation (there are even apps for that!) or a mindfulness habit so you can be more present (and patient) with your friends and family.
- Visit these articles here, here, here, and here for more ideas.
If you’d like to donate to a charity, but need some inspiration, some of my favorites are:
- Water For People
- Acadia Center
- World Resources Institute