The holidays are right around the corner and like many people you may be running at top speed for the next 6 weeks. From trying to arrange Thanksgiving dinner for a large family, to shopping for holiday gifts for everyone on your list, the holidays can be a great source of joy and happiness. But, they can also be a huge source of stress. This can be especially true for people who have estranged families, or live far apart, or may just not have many (or any) family members left. But there is a way you can grow personally and increase your own joy and peace by offering the same to someone else this holiday…
Spend a “Helping Holiday” and Grow Personally
You may not know this, but holidays from many years ago were a time when families didn’t focus so much on themselves. Rather, it was a time when families got together to collect, or more often make, gifts for the less fortunate (especially children), make and bring food to the poor, visit elderly, or the sick. In general, it was a time to help others. Not that there’s anything wrong with giving gifts to your loved ones, but it seems that part of the real message of the holidays has been lost beneath parties, food, expensive gifts, and never-ending sports games on television. But you can change that…
Even if you do have a big, participating family that gets together on holidays, you can still turn down the stress and glitz level and increase the joy and peace level. Even one hour a week spent to help out someone less fortunate than you can make a big difference. You could even start a new (old) trend in your family and get everyone together to go and do charitable things for those in need. You can even assign 1 charitable act to everyone and compare your experiences when all of you get together on the holiday.
There are even organizations that offer “virtual” ways to volunteer that are done over the phone, or online, or just donating money, or some knowledge perhaps, to charitable organizations. This could be good for people who don’t have reliable transportation, maybe are handicapped somehow, or just don’t have the means to get out and do volunteer work in person.
However, when you decide to lend a hand to others, volunteering can really be a big health and happiness booster – especially if you’re in the over-50 age bracket. Here are some benefits:
1. Chance to Socialize. Volunteering during the holidays, or any time, can help you make new social connections, even new friends, and decrease your feelings of loneliness. It’s especially beneficial to widow/ers, newly divorced, or people who live alone that might have fewer family members or friends available during the holidays.
2. Learn something new. Volunteering, at any time of the year, can help you learn new skills doing activities you never did before. Learning something new not only stimulates your brain and keeps it sharp but also helps boost your self-esteem.
3. Grows Your Heart. Volunteering can help you learn compassion towards others and also feel more thankful for all that you do have.
4. Sharpen Your Skills. Volunteering can allow you to teach whatever you know to someone who can use those skills. It can increase your communication skills and ability to just connect with someone who you might not in your everyday walk of life.
Where Can You Lend Your Time, Skills?
There are many opportunities in your local community that can use a helping hand during the holidays and other times during the year. Some common places to start include:
1. Organizations like The Salvation Army, Goodfellows, American Red Cross.
2. Local nursing/retirement/assisted living homes, orphanages, hospitals.
3. Homeless shelters.
4. Church, synagogues, mosques – Community Outreach.
You can also go online to find opportunities in your community, or even further away, like:
If you do, or don’t, participate in a big family get together over the holidays, you can still help someone less fortunate have a happier, warmer holiday. At the same time, you can help yourself grow personally by opening your heart, increasing your compassion, and self-esteem. You’d be surprised at how much a little bit of your help could do for a child, or an elderly or homeless person who might otherwise be alone for the holidays.
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Certified Empowerment Coach