The Yuletide season is nearly upon us and, in the spirit of Christmas, this year we’re taking a special look at how we can give back to those who need it the most.
For many of us, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, and how he came to us to bring love, hope and joy. While many share this belief, I think we can all agree that Christmas transcends religious belief and has become a firm fixture of most people’s winter and a general high point of the year.
Whether or not you are religious, Christmas has become known as a time to spread goodwill to all and gives us an opportunity to pause and give thanks for what we have. Hopefully, it can be a time of year when everyone can feel love and compassion, and know that we are not alone during, what can be for many, the darkest and toughest time of year.

Health benefits of giving

Are there any physical benefits of giving?

Christmas has been shown to have many benefits, not only to our moods (or our kids!), but also to our health; singing, spending time with loved ones, catching up on sleep, and indulging in family traditions all have significant benefits for our physical and mental health. It has also been shown that the fun and thoughtfulness that come with playing games and giving gifts can substantially improve our mental health and general well-being.

There have been many studies that underline the importance of giving and how it corresponds with improvements in our physical and mental health, as well as promoting positive values and giving everyone involved a good dose of gratitude.

It has been shown that those who live more altruistic lives through volunteering generally experience fewer aches and pains and, through the act of repeated giving, can increase their longevity more so than those who exercise regularly.

How does giving improve your mental health?

Mentally, the benefits can be immediately felt while also helping to contribute to our long-term health. Giving can make us feel positive, increase our confidence and self-worth, help prevent mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as the simple fact that giving makes us happy.

Especially around Christmas, we can fall foul of forgetting how great giving can be. When it comes to gifts, it is easy to focus on the pressures that arise from finding and buying gifts for our friends and family. This can be very stressful, but we can rest assured in the knowledge that the real gift we give each other is knowing that we are in each other’s hearts and minds.

Being able to share gratitude for being in each other’s lives is truly what makes this season so special. From small gestures to bigger shows of gratitude, giving increases our happiness and helps us to grow as people.

What you can do?

In Sussex, we are blessed with many ways that we can spread kindness and support those who are struggling through this cost of living crisis. With many being unable to afford both heating and food, the need for those of us who are able to help by stepping up is greater than ever. We have been looking into ways in which we can make sure that the more vulnerable members of our society can still experience the joys of Christmas.

Christmas Cheer Project

Fresh Start Community Association’s Christmas Cheer Project aims to provide food and presents to families within Brighton & Hove. Through donations in 2022, the Christmas Cheer Project was able to provide 30 families with fresh ingredients for Christmas dinner.

They also provided 66 large boxes of gifts, and 42 bags of food to 60 homes, with 244 individuals impacted by the generosity of others. Hopefully, they will be able to build off the success they had last year and spread the Christmas joy even further this winter.

For more info on the Christmas Cheer Project, visit the Fresh Start Community Association website:

Be A Secret Santa For Local Children

For more info on how to Be a Secret Santa For Local Children, please visit the Pelican Parcels website:

Another charity that focuses on supporting families at Christmas, Pelican Parcels was able to provide presents for 1,100 children and pregnant mothers in Brighton & Hove last Christmas and is looking to continue the good work after an even tougher year.

Looking for donations of gifts and money valued between £5 – £20, Pelican Parcels also supports our community by partnering with local toy shops, Whirligig, Timeless Toys, and Meg & Milo, with each shop participating with either offers or contributions of their own.

Christmas Cards

The long-running tradition of sending Christmas cards to loved ones is still a firm fixture of many people’s festive season. Despite there being a shift towards personalised Christmas cards purchased online, many people are turning back the clocks and sending out traditional, physical Christmas cards again.

If this is on your Christmas checklist, then we would recommend taking a look at both Chestnut Tree House and Friends of Sussex Hospices. Chestnut Tree House features a wide range of cards to choose from, with cards ranging from animal-based designs for your furry friends (never forget the pets!) to those of a more traditional festive theme. Friends of Sussex Hospices don’t have quite as large a range but still have lovely designs with the proceeds going to a great organisation. If you’re worried about having limited time to volunteer or spend time physically giving back, buying charity Christmas cards is an incredibly easy way to support your favourite local charity.

To see Chestnut Tree House’s Christmas card selection, please see their website:

To see the Friends of Sussex Hospices card selection, please see their website:

Brighton & Hove Food Partnership

With the cost of living crisis making it increasingly difficult to balance our budgets and tough decisions having to be made regarding the essentials, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership’s work has become more important than ever. If you’re looking for a place to donate or volunteer, then they will have the right opportunities for you, as well as supporting numerous local food projects.

Recently Brighton & Hove Food Partnership has partnered with Brighton & Hove Citizens Advice to create The Brighton & Hove Cost of Living Crisis Campaign. The campaign was aimed as a local appeal to help people in poverty in Brighton & Hove with their food and fuel costs. Accepting vouchers, food parcels and low-energy items to help people to better their energy expenditure, the campaign has now closed, however, it’s not too late to get involved with The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership at a time when spending on food and energy is generally increased.

Please visit the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership website for more ways to give back:

Santas on the Seafront

9th December @ 14:00-16:00 at Worthing promenade

The first event on our list, Santas on the Seafront held by MNDA (Motor Neurone Disease Association), invites you to dress up as Father Christmas, one of his elven companions, or simply wear something nice and Christmassy, and engage in a 5k run along Worthing Promenade, culminating at Splashpoint Leisure Centre. There are 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place prizes for the best-dressed competitor, with the entry fee being £10. The run itself is free to join, with opportunities to register and donate on the day. All money raised goes directly towards treating Motor Neurone Disease, a disease that attacks nerves and muscles that no longer work, with one in 300 people developing the disease at some point in their lives.

To get involved, make sure to visit the MNDA website:

Christmas at The Castle

30th November @ 19:00 – 23:00 at Arundel Castle

If you’re looking to view some of the best wildlife art in existence at the historic Arundel Castle, then David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s ‘Christmas at the Castle’ event would probably be our recommendation. This event celebrates the work that DSWF has done over the past year. A little further from home, but nonetheless, a topical and worthwhile way to give back, DSWF’s mission is to fight, protect, and engage on behalf of endangered wildlife around the world and have key conservation projects across Africa and Asia.

HRVAB Christmas Fete

9th December @ 10:30 – 12:30 at John Taplin Centre, St. Leonards-on-Sea

With a festive tombola and Christmas gifts, as well as cakes and preserves, supporting the blind & partially sighted has never been more appealing. An excellent opportunity to feel a little less guilty when indulging in some retail therapy/Christmas shopping. There’s lots to entertain the kids too!

To donate to HRVAB, please visit their website:

In Conclusion

Don’t forget, an average recipient of each act of charity is someone who is struggling to pay for essential services and, in many cases, doesn’t have enough for a weekly shop. If we can touch the lives of those who can’t afford these essential services, it can serve as a reminder to us all that we each deserve respect and care, not only at Christmas but all year round.

We have spoken about some excellent charities, all of which do great work. If we can act on these opportunities, whether this is buying Christmas cards or running along the beach dressed as Santa, we can not only improve our own physical and mental health, but we can also make an immeasurable difference in someone else’s life.