Between the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, arranging plans, and creating our gift giving list (and checking it twice!), it can be easy to forget that, for some, Christmas is a time where the pang of loneliness feels that little bit harder. Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. We might have a brilliant network of friends and family but choose to spend time alone which makes us perfectly happy, or we can have a wide social circle but still feel the pang of loneliness at this time of year. Loneliness then is more about our sense of connection with others – how close and important we feel in the eyes of others and the need for a shared connection.

Pre-pandemic, a 2018 poll found that 17% of people felt more lonely over the festive period. And it’s hardly surprising, given the emphasis on connection and the expectation to spend time with family and friends (even those you might rather not!). 

It’s easy to compare our family and social connections with society’s expectations and get the feeling that perhaps ours don’t quite measure up, or perhaps your family thrives over the festive season with excitement of all the gatherings you have planned, whilst being all too aware that others are not so lucky to experience this same joy.

Perhaps even harder this year is the cost of living crisis many families are facing and, at a time when we feel pressure to provide our children with the latest toys and gadgets, feelings of falling short can quickly settle in. 

But, what if we were to set those expectations aside (and the stress that often comes with it!) and focus on what the true meaning of Christmas actually is: GIVING.

And not giving in the material sense, but thinking about the essence of what giving truly means: to think of another, to make someone feel special, to help someone less fortunate, to give our time, our resources, our gifts in whatever way we can. And what a lovely, important life lesson we can share with our children when we help to overcome loneliness and give in this way!

The Neuroscience of Giving…

  • Giving (whether it be a gift or helping through giving our time and energy) improves our mood.  When we give, we trigger the release of oxytocin (the feel-good chemical that is often linked to new mothers bonding with their babies). Oxytocin helps us to feel connected. 
  • We know that when we feel connected, we are creating positive interactions, and these positive interactions promote the release of further feel-good chemicals in the way of serotonin. Serotonin helps us feel happy and calm.  
  • Definitely something we need a good dose of over the Christmas period! Even better news – serotonin and oxytocin both counteract the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Whether we’re the one giving or receiving the gift, the happiness effect is the same! 

So, how can we put this to good use and get our family into the true spirit of Christmas and combat loneliness this year? 

Learning the Art of Giving

Want to overcome loneliness and bring in the true spirit of Christmas? Take a look at our fairy ideas below…

  • Create a giving calendar or put a different twist on your elf on the shelf. Alongside your child’s advent calendar or elf’s daily mischief-making, consider how each day can also be an opportunity to give to others. For example, each day on the calendar may give an idea of something kind to do in the community or a kindness challenge the elf sets for your child. Some ideas might include:
  • Donating food to a local food bank
  • Posting a Christmas card through the letterbox of an elderly neighbour
  • Inviting a neighbour who lives alone round for a cuppa and a mince pie
  • Gifting some home-baked goods
  • Offering to run an errand for a neighbour
  • Remember the importance of community. There was a lot to be said for how communities came together during Covid times to create a sense of togetherness when people had to stay far apart. One trend that lifted the spirits of many was the kindness pebbles that were created for others to spot whilst out on their daily walk. Why not put a festive spin on this and get your children painting festive kindness pebbles for others to find whilst out in the community and spread a little Christmas cheer! If you’re particularly artsy and crafty, knitted snow angels are another beautiful idea that’s also been used before.
  • Donate! Donations are really needed at this time of year. Whether it be bedding items for a homeless shelter, your children’s old books and toys, get your children involved in charitable giving. Beyond helping children overcome loneliness, donating also teaches them to be grateful and kind.
  • Reach out to a loved one. Call in or phone a loved one or a friend your family hasn’t seen for a while. Feeling like you are being held in mind by others is a lovely way of tackling loneliness and reminding others that they have connections.
  1. Volunteer! Encouraging your child to volunteer for charitable causes can be a great way for children to experience the joy of helping others. There are lots of volunteering opportunities that children can get involved in, from charities who encourage letter writing to support a good cause to supporting in your local community. Kids Health offers further ideas on volunteering opportunities for children Volunteering With Your Child (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth

Some other ideas…

The charity, Action for Happiness, releases a well-being calendar every month with daily challenges on and are always worth a look for ideas. Their theme this month is ‘Do Good December’ Do Good December | Action for Happiness