23 Ways to Help Someone Who's Alone for the Holidays
There’s no time like the holidays to help someone out.
The holidays, generally speaking, are a time of togetherness. You're surrounded by family, friends, and even the occasional stranger (presumably in the form of a sibling's latest flame). But in the throes of such mirth and merriment, it can be easy to forget that there are folks out there who are totally, completely alone for the holiday season.
Well, friend, that's where you come in. Whether it's a friend who's recently gone through a bitter divorce, an elderly relative who can't quite get out of the house, or just someone who's just a little too burnt out to make any holiday plans, a touch of holiday season joy goes twice as far for a lonely person. Here's how you can give it to them. And if you need help fighting your own winter blues, here is The Best Thing to Do When You're Feeling Sad This Holiday Season.
Run Errands for Them
Especially if the person is elderly or can't easily get out of the house to take care of various errands or tasks, you can ask what you can get off of their to-do list. And if they're the stubborn type who refuses help, just say you were going to be out taking care of your own errands anyway and would be happy to do some shopping or some other helpful activity in their behalf. And for more ways to make the most of the holiday season, here are 17 Top Tips from Psychologists for Dealing with Holiday Stress.
Bring Them Some Sweets
Few people would be sad to receive a plate of homemade cookies. Whip up a batch and set aside a dozen just for the person who you know will really appreciate them. Ideally, you can deliver them directly yourself (maybe sharing a couple while you are there). But if a personal visit is not possible, mailing a batch done up with some colorful wrapping is guaranteed to improve anyone's day.
Invite Them to Come Over and Watch a Show
Is there a Netflix show you've raving about? Or maybe a hit movie hit a streaming service recently? Get some snacks and hang out on the couch in a warm living room for the afternoon. It's a low-pressure way to get them out of the house and hang out. And if you're in need of binge-worthy show suggestions, here are 13 Hulu Shows You're Not Watching But Should.
Gift Them an Experience
While a thoughtful item is always appreciated, an experience has been found to be provide longer-lasting enjoyment, allowing the recipient to anticipate the outing and leaving them with memories that will stay with them long after the event is over. Whether you send them tickets to a show or a pass for bowling or some other activity, gifting an experience can help a lonely person in many ways.
Go for a Run (or Stroll)
Getting active is a terrific way to break out of a bad mood, so asking someone who is alone during the holidays or maybe not feeling great to join you in some exercise or a brisk walk can help them even after the two of you go your separate ways. Obviously what you do will depend on the weather, but if you can get them to do some kind of activity that gets their blood pumping, there will be plenty of benefits for both of you.
Loan or Borrow a Book
Sharing a reading experience can create a lasting connection between two people, giving you the opportunity to discuss what you liked about the story or characters and a common reference between you both for years to come. If they brought up a boom they loved, ask to borrow it—and actually take the time to read it. Alternately, if they showed interest in a book you mentioned, pass your copy along to them. It also offers a chance to reconnect when one of you returns the book to the other. And if you're looking for suggestions, try any of the 40 Books You Hated in High School That You'll Love Now.
Text a Sincere Message
It doesn't take much to brighten a lonely person's day. A quick text saying "hi" can be deeply appreciated—but only if it's written with a personal touch. Don't send a mass text to everyone in your contacts or, chances are, it will have the opposite effect you are going for. Make it tailored to that person, maybe with a note about what it is you appreciate about them. You'll both feel better because of it.
Offer a Group Invite
Sometimes a direct one-on-one invitation can strike the wrong note—either the lonely person you're inviting feels too much pressure, or you might end up in an awkward situation. In these cases, doing something with a group of people and inviting the solo person along is a great way to get them to get out of the house without feeling coerced.
"If you are hosting a gathering, take a moment and think about the people in your life who might be delighted to have an invitation to join you," life coach Judith Johnson writes in HuffPost. "A simple act of kindness goes a very long way—especially during the holidays."
Offer an Open Invite on Social Media
Another approach to opening up the option of hanging with a person who can use the company but would be unlikely to do the outreach themselves is to post an open invite on Facebook.
"People are much more likely to respond to specific suggestions than to a generic 'let's get together,'" Guy Winch, Ph.D., writes at Psychology Today. "Posting a message on Facebook such as, 'Message me if you want to go caroling tomorrow evening!' might get a response and asking people to message rather than post a reply means a potential lack of response will at least not be public."
Ask for a Favor
It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes one of the best ways to help someone is to ask they to help you. Especially for a person who may often feel that they are a burden to others or worries that they are imposing, asking someone alone during the holidays to lend you a hand—maybe assisting you with picking up some furniture, doing some project around the house (like repainting your walls), or shopping for a gift for a mutual friend—might be just the thing to get them out of the house.
Ask for Advice
Similar to a favor, asking for advice can be a great way to compliment someone and get them out of their shell without seeming like that's what you are doing. Tell them something like, "You know so much about bikes, what model would you recommend I buy for my nephew?" Or even, "Do you know a good dentist?" A simple query like that can open up a conversation that benefits you both.
Write Them a Letter
And make sure it's an old-fashioned one, with pen and paper and stamp. You might think "nobody does that anymore," but that's exactly the point. It will be unexpected and appreciated all that much more.
Text a Joke
No, not one of those mass emails full of misspellings that your dad likes to forward. Just a dumb, simple joke with a basic setup and punchline. And if you're in need of suggestions, start with these 50 Amazing Jokes You Can Text to Friends.
Give a Small Gift
If spending time with a lonely person is not an option, perhaps because you won't be in the same city, then reach out with a small token of friendship—a small gift or a card, for example. It will be appreciated and meaningful to the person who receives it, especially if they don't have a lot of gifts from other friends and family. And if your recipient is a fashion-forward maven, start with these 10 Must-Have Men's Style Buys This Holiday Season.
Make a Phone Call
Another "gift" you can give to someone who is not physically near you is to pick up the phone and reach out that way. Even if you just chat for a few minutes, for someone who may be on their own during the holidays, a friendly chat can be deeply meaningful and the kind of easy offering that makes the difference between them having a downer of a day and one that feels pretty good.
Send an Email
It doesn't have to be about anything—just a quick check-in that says hello and asks how the lonely person is doing will do the trick. They may not reply, or it may be just the right bit of outreach that they needed to lift their spirits during a tough time.
Bring Over Some Snacks
You can present it as them doing you a favor—you want to whip up some holiday cookies for work but your kitchen is a bit cramped, for example. Ask if you can use their kitchen and see if you can get them to join you in the process of creating something delicious. It's a fun, productive way to spend an afternoon.
Go to a Concert
The holidays have no shortage of cheap or free shows. You can reach out to the person who could use company and let them know you got an extra ticket, asking if they'd like to join you for the show.
Ask for a Recipe
If the person is pretty capable in the kitchen, reach out and ask them if they have a good recipe for some holiday dish. Even if you have no idea if they cook, you can reach out to ask if they do, simply saying you're reaching out to friends to get some ideas for new things you can make. Chances are they'll have a suggestion.
Go to a Holiday Market
Most cities have holiday markets during this time, with local craftspeople offering their wares, from clever ornaments to bespoke winter wear. See if there is one near where the lonely person you know lives and invite them to go for a stroll to see what's available and maybe help you pick out something.
Grab a Coffee or Beer
You can't go wrong with the most classic hangout. If someone is feeling lonely, asking to grab a coffee or a beer (or maybe a hot toddy) is a great way for them to get out of the house and feel connected to another person. It also requires no other logistics than a decent coffee shop or bar—and an hour or two to kill.
Reach out to the lonely person in your life and see if they'd like to join you in doing something for others, such as working in a soup kitchen or helping with a canned food drive. Nothing gets someone out of their own head and to stop obsessing over their own worries than doing something for somebody else. And if you're looking for places to volunteer, check out these 33 Charitable Opportunities to Participate in This Holiday Season.
Go to a Movie
Another simple but meaningful way to spend a couple hours. Let the person know you are going to catch a new movie but don't have anyone to go with—asking would they like to join. Chances are they'll be happy to. ANd for more on how you can help others this holiday season, check out 15 Biggest Holiday Depression Triggers You Never Even Knew About.
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