7 ways you can give back to your community this holiday season

With holiday planning, shopping and celebrating in full swing, the list of to-dos can get a bit overwhelming. Not only that, but your available time might seem as if it’s shrinking into nonexistence.

But don’t forget about one important part of the holidays — that is, giving back and helping others who are in need. While giving back isn’t exclusive to the holidays, this time of year offers an opportunity to balance all of those stocking stuffers with reaching out and making someone’s day a little brighter.

In fact, “performing charitable or philanthropic acts can have a direct impact on our mental health,” Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, tells In The Know. “To put it simply, when we do good, we feel good. Our brains release chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin any time we go to a beach cleanup or volunteer at a soup kitchen, for example.”

With all of that in mind, here are seven ways you can give back to your community this holiday season and beyond.

Credit: Getty Images

1. Volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter

When it comes to helping out at a local food bank or homeless shelter, even a couple of hours can make a big difference. Some organizations also allow groups, so family and friends can join in, too. Whether it’s handing out food, delivering food, assisting with office tasks or even just making friendly phone calls, your assistance helps these organizations run smoothly so they can offer more services to others.

2. Make dignity packs

Sometimes the opportunity to give back pops up unexpectedly — maybe when you’re out of cash or running late for an appointment. That’s why having a few pre-packed dignity bags in your car is helpful any time of year. Fill gift bags (or any kind of bag) with necessities like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, sanitary items, socks and packaged snacks, and hand them out when the opportunity presents itself.

3. Help a neighbor out

If you haven’t had a chance to meet your neighbors, now is a great time to get on that. Everyone has tasks they’ve left at the bottom of their to-do lists. Why not offer to take that item off your neighbor’s plate? Raking leaves? Washing windows? Picking up dry cleaning? Not only are you giving them some precious time back in their day and relieving some of their mental load, but you also never know when you might need a cup of sugar yourself!

4. Visit a local nursing home

When loved ones aren’t able to visit, it’s always nice to get some personal attention from someone in the community. If the facility allows, check on how you can either read stories or just have a few conversations with some residents. Think of all the stories you might hear, too! If visiting isn’t an option, check websites to see if you can donate much-needed supplies like hand sanitizer, shower caps and thermometers.

5. Plan events at your local library

Have a special talent that you’d like to share? Are you amazing at origami? Know a local author that you could interview? Libraries across the country offer volunteer opportunities to members of the community year-round. And even if you’re not into event planning, there is also the opportunity to read to kids or help with administrative tasks.

6. Organize a neighborhood trash cleanup

Whether it’s on your street or around the block, trash can pop up anywhere in every neighborhood. Why not gather a group of neighbors and help clean up your small section of town? Not only will you be doing good for local streets, you also might meet some new friends in the process.

7. Support small businesses in your community

Small businesses are the so-called backbone of the economy. They provide goods and services for the community in a much more connected way than larger chain stores. Why not help out business owners by purchasing a stack of gift cards to hand out to friends and family and spread the word while you’re at it? Or the next time you’re visiting, why not buy an extra treat for everyone in line? The business owners, who might also be members of your local community, will be thrilled with the support!

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If you liked this story, check out this 20-year-old who’s spearheading a global movement to pick up trash!

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