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People really love to celebrate the holidays, whether it be Halloween, the Fourth of July, or even National Pizza Day—but they really love to celebrate Christmas. The second that Thanksgiving is over, out come the twinkly lights, the tinsel, the carolers, and the gift wrap. We rejoice in decorating the tree, singing the classics, and watching our favorite holiday movies (Elf, anybody?) … but we also get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that we forget to “pay it forward.” We overlook opportunities to give back.

There are so many ways to spread love this Christmas, but we’re so easily distracted by the items on our to-do list: pick out a tree, put up the decorations, find the perfect gifts, master that pie recipe… it never ends. The only thing omitted from the list, which should claim first priority, is getting involved and having a positive impact on someone else’s life. This includes your friends, your family, and complete and utter strangers. But wait—the deal doesn’t stop there: you’ll benefit as well! Interacting with others, whether they be long-time friends or someone you just met, can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. It decreases stress levels, improves cardiovascular health, and can even help you live longer. Additionally, getting involved will likely remind you of all that you have to be thankful for, which secures further benefits: gratitude improves self-esteem, helps you sleep better, and correlates with an overall greater psychological health.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to move some things around in your calendar and start spreading the holiday cheer? Great! Now, here are 10 ways to get involved and have a positive impact on those around you this Christmas:

1) Help your neighbor put up those tricky decorations.

Instead of watching your neighbor struggle on the roof with a tangled mess of lights, walk on over and offer to help. They’ll surely appreciate it, and the two of you are bound to share a few good laughs.

2) Get crafty and personable with your presents.

Instead of pushing and suffering through the big crowds at the mall, get crafty with your gift-giving and give your loved ones something they’re sure to cherish for years to come. You’ll be excited to give it to them and they’ll feel overwhelmed with love and joy when they open it.

3) Gift an experience you can enjoy with a loved one.

Another alternative to waiting in long lines at department stores and risking your present being tossed in the trash, is gifting an experience that you and your loved one can enjoy. Give your mom a gift certificate to the spa and promise to accompany her; book a vacation for you and your partner; buy your brother those concert tickets he’s been eyeing.

4) Splurge on that ticket home.

Perhaps the best gift of all—your presence. I know that traveling during the holidays can be expensive, but if you’re able, traveling home for the holidays is the best gift you can give to your loved ones and yourself.

5) Volunteer at a local charity.

If you’re unable to spend the holidays with your loved ones, volunteering at a local charity is the perfect route to take—not only will it provide you with that beneficial human contact, but it will help others in need and bring joy to them this Christmas.

6) Send cards to extended family and distant friends.

It isn’t always possible to have that face-to-face interaction with those we love—especially distant relatives and old friends that have moved away. Thankfully, though, there’s an easy solution: send them fun holiday cards! You can even include a meaningful letter or note inside that warms their core when they read it.

7) Arrange a secret Santa exchange at work.

Whoever invented Secret Santa is a genius—it cuts back on time and money, while also maximizing the fun that is gift-giving! Go ahead, what are you waiting for? Talk to your coworkers and plan the details. This fun game will provide laughs and love aplenty.

8) Invite a lonely friend over for Christmas dinner.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to spend Christmas with family—but no one should spend it alone. Consider inviting a friend or coworker that’s new to town over for the holidays. They’d surely love some company and appreciate the invitation for years to come.

9) Donate blankets and food to the homeless.

The truth is that the holidays aren’t the “greatest time of year” for everybody. In fact, it’s the most difficult time of year for some. Help make it a little brighter by showing the homeless some love—take them some blankets and food to enjoy this season.

10) Tell all of your loved ones that you—well—love them.

Oxytocin, or the “love hormone”, is a neurotransmitter released during social interaction: hugging, kissing, or simply bonding. It’s also a big part of the reason interacting with others is so beneficial to our health. So, don’t wait another minute—go show your loved ones some love. Hug ‘em, kiss ‘em, whatever you deem fit!

If you stuck around this long, you might as well...

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