December can be a pretty stressful month.
Between the parties, the gift shopping, the decorations, the baking, the writing of cards and managing the expectations of family and close friends, it's no wonder we end up asleep on the sofa come the afternoon on Christmas day.
But amidst the madness, it's worth pausing for thought and focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.
Whether or not you believe in the story of Jesus Christ, you don't need to be a Christian to appreciate the holiday period as a time of compassion and kindness. It's a time to appreciate the gift of life by reaching out to someone less fortunate than yourself.
Of course family comes first, but there's always a way for each one of us to make a difference at Christmas, a chance to nourish the soul and spread some love through human kindness.
Touching another person's life by turning sadness to joy or a frown to a smile is a beautiful gift, and Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to take leave of our largely self-centered existence and do something amazing.
Here's a list of things 5 things you can do to help others, that require very little effort.
1. Help an Elderly Neighbour in Need
I don't know about where you live, but here in the UK it gets pretty cold in December and January. It also gets pretty lonely for those living alone.
The days are short, damp and gloomy, and the cold means people don't hang about outside for too long. At times the streets are ghostly, with few signs of life.
Most of us have an old person living on our street, someone widowed or perhaps an old couple who aren't in the best of health.
As we cosy up with our loved ones waiting for the big day, it's easy to forget that there are others living alone just a stone's throw from where we live.
If you can, take five minutes to pop down and see the old man, lady or couple on your street.
Ask if they need any shopping doing, invite them down for a sherry and a mince pie, and make sure their heating is working properly.
Perhaps just sit and chat with them for a while. Ten minutes of your time will make a huge difference to their day. in fact, just knocking on the door to say hello can make such a positive impact on a person's day.
2. Donate What You Don't Use
There are many ways to make a donation to those less fortunate than yourself, but a great way is to have a clear out and donate stuff you don't use to a charity shop/thrift store, the homeless, or even someone you know who is having a tough time of thing.
It's also a rewarding feeling to have a sort out: tidy mind = tidy life, as they say.
Charity shops (at least here in the UK) have struggled in recent years due to higher premises rates and competition from direct charity appeals on TV.
Donating clothes, toys, ornaments and kitchenware that can be resold for a charitable cause is a fantastic way to help the needy at Christmas.
For those who can't afford to give money to a charity each month, donating a couple of books or toys the kids don't play with anymore is something most can manage.
Having a clear out is a charitable activity the whole family can get involved in, because everyone has something that's nearly new that they don't use anymore, or a present from last year that barely made it out of the box.
3. Sweep a Step or Two
While a frosty morning or blanket of snow gets the kids excited, it can be a nightmare for the disabled and the elderly.
When snow falls, don't just clear the snow from your doorstep and driveway, think about others in your street who might need a hand too: a single mum, an elderly lady, a wheelchair bound person or a person with poor eyesight or special needs.
The same goes for a heavy frost. Doorsteps and paths can become slippery and dangerous, and with just a little thought, salt and some deicer, we can help make walking safe for others.
4. Help the Homeless
Some people are homeless through financial circumstance, some through mental illness and some through choice.
But regardless of how a person came to be on the street, Christmas is an extremely difficult time to be homeless – not just because of the cold but because of being isolated and alone during a time when it seems like the whole world is enjoying time with family, except you.
Many people volunteer at homeless shelters over the holiday period, helping serve food, distributing blankets and boosting morale.
But if you don't have the time to do that, try and make a difference in another way, perhaps by donating some spare change to a homeless shelter charity box or by dropping a few coins in the hat/cup of a homeless person you see on the way to work.
I know that a lot of homeless people are struggling with addiction, and some would argue that giving them money only feeds an addiction that requires state care. If that's a concern for you, then buy a cup of tea and a sandwich instead.
A hot drink in the freezing cold is an absolute blessing.
5. Keep An Eye On The Animals
Like people, animals need care at Christmas too.
Hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, cats and other animals can quickly become victims of Jack Frost.
Abandoned, injured and vulnerable animals often take refuge in sheds or bushes at the bottom of a garden during wintertime, so have a check a couple of times each week to make sure there isn't an animal suffering on your doorstep that you didn't know about.
In addition, put some seeds or breadcrumbs out for the birds. Robin Redbreast will appreciate it!
Giving is always far more rewarding than receiving. And the beauty of spreading love is that not only does it help heal the soul of another, it helps heal yours too.
If you like the spirit of this post, please share it on your socials and let's spread some kindness this Christmas.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!