How to Make a Difference with Your Holiday Gift

At a loss for what to give as gifts this holiday season? Sick of the over-hyped commercialization of Christmas? Ready to try something completely out of the box? 

How about giving the gift of you?

No, we don’t mean you should wrap yourself up and present yourself as a gift. We mean the gift of your time.

Now pause for a moment to take a breath before your mind screams “I don’t have any time!”. Think about what you could do in five minutes to brighten someone’s day. Just five minutes. Start there. Is there someone you could check in on for a brief hello? What about 15 minutes? Who might like to hear from you? How could you help someone out in 15 minutes? 

Giving the gift of your time isn’t as much about the quantity of time as it is about the quality of the time. No matter how much – or how little – you have to offer, make it count.

Because right now, a lot of people are struggling. A lot of people are suffering – financially, emotionally, psychologically, in all ways imaginable. Right now, communities coming together to support one another is what the world needs. To respond to the needs of neighbors, to seek out those in need of our support and present it like a gift. 

Right now, each one of us can make a difference. You can make a difference.

Five Gift-of-Self Ideas to Inspire

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how. These are just guidelines to spark your inspiration. Adapt them to your own situations and find your own creative alternatives.

  • Make a date. Who would enjoy your uninterrupted attention? Who do you know that every time you get together, you have unconditional fun? If – and only if – doing so feeds your soul as well, then make the time and schedule it in. Remember, quality over quantity.
  • Help out the parents. Know any overburdened moms or dads? Offer to babysit while they do some shopping, or occupy the kids while they run errands or wrap presents. Gift them a night off.
  • Walk the dog. Offer to walk a neighbor’s (or neighbors’) dog(s) when you know they’re going to be away or at work. Or, if you have the capacity, offer to pet-sit for an overnight or weekend if that would be helpful to them.
  • Send snail mail. Resurrect the age-old practice of sharing life’s little details with the ones we love. How much would it mean for your favorite aunt to get a hand-written letter from you? How about a child who would delight over some unexpected card in the mailbox? 
  • Be there. If you see someone struggling, say something. Ask what you can do. At work, at home, at school, wherever you interact with people. Pay attention to young people in your life. Many young people are hurting; be the one who acknowledges it and reaches out.

The Gift that Gives Back

Giving feels good. There’s a lot of robust scientific evidence that suggests helping others also helps us. It’s one of the ingredients to holistic well-being. So giving the gift of your time has the added bonus of making you feel good as well. And who doesn’t need that in the midst of a busy holiday season?

Kindness, it turns out, is good for your mental health. And doling it out generously to others, with no expectation of a return favor, can be an essential component of finding purpose and meaning in our lives. This sense of “self-efficacy,” as psychologists call it, is an important component of psychological well-being and is increasingly recognized as one of the tenets of healthy brain aging. 

~ ”Helping Hands: Do Good to Feel Good” COVID Support VT blog

Learn More and Find Resources

Read ”Helping Hands: Do Good to Feel Good”  on the COVID Support VT blog.

Read University College London’s overview of the health effects of kindness in 10 Benefits of Helping Others.

The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others, by Jenni Santi, offers 5 general guidelines for finding a way to help.

Read more on why volunteering is good for your health in HelpGuide’s Volunteering and Its Surprising Benefits. To find more formal volunteer opportunities with organizations in your community, check out the United Way’s Volunteer Connection. The website is a searchable statewide portal where nonprofits can register their needs and individuals can find positions based on their skills or interests.

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

Need to Talk?

Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.

In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources.

Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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