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Aging & Society

8 Ways to Make a Difference This Holiday Season

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Want to do something kind for yourself this holiday season? Do something kind for someone else.

According to a study by UnitedHealth Group[1], 78 percent of people who volunteered their time to help others in the last 12 months said that doing so made them feel less stressed, and 94 percent said that volunteering improved their moods. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Here are some ideas to make the holidays a little brighter—for others and maybe even for yourself.

Volunteer. No matter where you live, there are communities, families, individuals and even animals in need. Choose a non-profit organization or cause that’s near and dear to your heart and find out what volunteer opportunities are available. Need some help? Websites like VolunteerMatch can connect you with a cause that needs your skills.

Get cooking. We all know a friend who could use a little mood boost during the holidays. These are times that tend to make the lonely feel lonelier, and losses can feel even more profound. Make a meal, or maybe even just some muffins, to share with a pal and let them know that you’re there for them during the holidays and throughout the year.  

Clean out your closets and pantries. It’s never a bad time to de-clutter. Dig into those drawers and pull out the items that you and your family no longer wear or use. Donate coats, sweaters, pajamas, food, books, appliances and, yes, money to a charity that will benefit people in need.

Donate blood and/or platelets. Winter is often a challenging time for blood donation centers, and donations tend to decrease, due to holiday schedules and cold weather. You can help by making an appointment at a blood drive near you (find one through the Red Cross).  

Gather your friends and pick a purpose. You can make a difference from the comfort of your home. Get your friends together and knit, bake, quilt, create holiday cards, go shopping for items to share or do some fundraising, and present the fruits of your labor to a cause that is important to you.

Adopt a family or give a tot a toy. A number of charities across the country offer opportunities to warm up the holidays for a family in need. By purchasing gifts, toys, clothing and basic necessities, you can help to make the holidays shine. Alternatively, the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new toys (and monetary donations) and distributes them to children across the country.

Pay it forward. Next time you buy a cup of coffee or a meal, offer to pay for another person’s order, as well. You never know, you may inspire them to do the same and start a chain of generosity.

Thank a hero. Knit a blanket or scarf to donate to your local Veterans Administration hospital or send a gift to the troops. With the website USO Wishbook, operated by the United Service Organizations, Inc. you can send comfort food packages, technology gifts, books, DVDs, holiday care packages and more to servicemen and servicewomen.

The holidays are a great time to give back. But don’t forget that people in our communities need help throughout the year. Make generosity a habit and you can find ways to do good year round.


[1] UnitedHealth Group, “Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study

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