If gift exchanges and festive movies aren’t making you feel as joyful as usual, you can still have a meaningful holiday season by giving back to your community and uplifting those who need it most.
And even if you are enjoying all the classic trappings of the holidays, giving back can make this time of the year even better. Charitable acts can not only bring a bit of joy or peace of mind to someone who needs it—but also increase your own happiness!
Happiness expert and UBC prof Dr. Elizabeth Dunn has conducted research that shows the positive benefits of taking the focus off ourselves and lending a hand to someone else. It can help us feel more connected to our community and ground our perception of what’s important.
And remember, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to feel the benefits of giving back! If you’re working with a smaller budget, volunteering a bit of your time can be just as effective at improving someone’s day and making yours better as well!
Here are some ways you can make a positive difference in someone’s life, both around the world and in the Vancouver area:
Things you can do anywhere
- Organize a holiday hamper: Find a local organization that’s putting together hampers for families in need, or organize your own hamper with some friends to spread out the costs. You don’t need to spend a lot to contribute to a hamper—even low-cost items like socks or toiletries can help!
- Donate/volunteer at a food bank: Food banks need volunteers to sort and distribute food, so see how you can help during the holiday season and beyond.
- Write letters to essential workers, the elderly, and the incarcerated: These folks in particular may be struggling with isolation, so consider reaching out to them if you’re looking for a new pen pal!
- Donate blood: If you’re able to, donating blood can help relieve some of the pressure on hospitals right now.
- Buy holiday gifts from local businesses: Yes, getting gifts from that website is convenient, but supporting local small businesses directly helps your community.
- Reach out to family and friends: Bake cookies, send postcards, make a painting—let your loved ones know you’re thinking about them!
- Pay it forward: If you’ve got some extra cash, ask to pay for the order of the person behind you the next time you visit your local coffee shop.
- Make some art: Hang up a message of solidarity in your window, create a mandala out of flowers or pinecones the next time you take a walk in the park or forest, make a chalk-art masterpiece on your street—a little bit of art can really brighten someone’s day as they pass by!
Vancouver/BC organizations to support:
- Volunteer BC: Find volunteer opportunities around BC!
- Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau: This charity supports children in need over the holiday season.
- Ignite the Warmth: This non-profit engages the community on issues of poverty and homelessness in Vancouver.
- Food Bank BC: Volunteer at a food bank near you!
- Lights of Hope: Donations here support hospitals, long-term care homes, and more across BC.
- YWCA Holiday Giving Program: Contributions support local families and single mothers in need.
- BC Children’s Hospital: Help support the research and technologies needed to conquer childhood illnesses.
- BC SPCA: Donate or volunteer to support injured and abandoned animals.
These are only some ideas of how you can give back this season! Whether you want to donate your money or your time, you can give someone a bit of extra holiday cheer during a year when they may really need it.
Giving back may even inspire you to feel a bit more festive if you haven’t been in the mood for celebrating. And remember—you don’t have to restrict charitable acts to the holidays. As we push through the rest of this winter, support your friends, family, and community where you can. Something as simple as a phone call can make someone’s day!