Would you or an organization you work with like practical, unique ideas to focus on for Advent or during the holiday season? These 52 prompts are free for your use. Each of them is designed to offer you a way to help your audience learn about loneliness and isolation and take actions to help others feel connected.
Wait…why should we post about loneliness during the holidays?
There is a rapid rise in feelings of loneliness and isolation among people around the country. In fact, did you know that the Surgeon General recently declared that we have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States? As the announcement from the US Department of Health and Human Services says, “Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. In fact, loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.”
Every organization, business, faith community, or nonprofit organization can help people feel more connected to others. Doing so can have positive benefits for your organization or business, for your members/clients/customers, and for people you’ll never meet at all. We encourage you to focus on this topic for many reasons, but here are three:
- People who are lonely and isolated are already attending your church, buying from your business, being served by your organization, and so on. They may be visiting you for the first time during the holiday season. Make their experience of you a positive one!
- Connecting people strengthens bonds in your community, which has many positive ripple effects for everyone. A community’s resilience, health, and polarization is definitely improved when people feel a general sense of caring exists for the well-being of all people.
- The holidays are a challenging time for so many people. While it’s a common myth that suicide rates go up during the end of the year, the end of the year is still is a time when feelings of loneliness and isolation can increase. Through some simple messaging techniques, your organization or business can be seen as a “promoter of caring, connection, and community” during the holidays.
Our bet is that you can come up with LOTS of creative ways to focus on connection and community this Advent / holiday season. It may even just mean making some slight tweaks to much of what you’re already planning on doing.
Here’s how to use these “Advent Calendar” ideas
- You may freely use and/or modify these short posts in any way you wish (other than selling them). Use them as they are, rewrite them, add links to your own related content, turn them into a print calendar or daily email series, simplify them for children or youth, offer special gifts or discounts…have fun! Most of them are non-religious in nature, and if you don’t want to call them an Advent Calendar, you could just use a phrase like “Christmas Countdown Calendar.”
- Crediting Helpspring: While no credit is required, we would be grateful if you would consider sharing similar to the following at some point, in whatever way you wish:
“Advent posts courtesy of Helpspring.com” or “Visit helpspring.com for more ideas and resources.”
- Think about your audience as you pick ideas. Some take little time and are more family-friendly; others are more involved. The intent is not that someone will likely do every single one of the ideas you share but that they will engage the epidemic of loneliness and isolation throughout the holiday season in various, meaningful ways.
- Each post includes a suggested image. If you wish to use an image with your post and don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for one, we’ve linked to a free one you can use that might work thematically for it.
- Traditionally, Advent begins on December 3 and ends on Christmas eve, December 24. Pick 22 of the posts if you’re posting 1x/per day or 44 for 2x/day. Also, the “12 days of Christmas” begins on December 25, so you could certainly extend your posts out through January 5 (Epiphany eve).
- These also work as a weekly post focus. Since there are 52 items here, you could also choose to focus on this topic one day each week for a year.
- Bonus: Sign up for our newsletter (see the form at the bottom of the page) to get all of these in an editable Google Doc or Word document PLUS 20 more more involved ideas that an organization can consider doing to address loneliness and isolation.
Advent Calendar (or annual calendar) Post Ideas
1. Check out or buy a book about the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in this country, such as Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. Read it for at least 10 minutes each day during Advent.
2. Commit to going to a weekly worship service at a faith community throughout Advent. Chat with people who seem alone or disconnected.
3. Shockingly, 46 percent of all meals are eaten alone. Commit this Advent to eating as many meals as possible with someone else, even if that means doing so virtually.
4. Reach out to a vulnerable person in your community. Offer to run errands or provide assistance with holiday tasks.
5. Donate to a charity that builds connection and community in your town.
6. Go take a plate of goodies to a neighbor you don’t know well. Have a short, friendly conversation and leave them a card with your contact info.
7. Familiarize yourself with local services that can help those struggling with isolation (support groups, mental health organizations, meal delivery services, etc.) If you have trouble finding them, others do too, so start a crowdsourced, shareable list.
8. Check in on a friend who you’ve not connected with in a long time.
9. Host a game night at your home or church.
10. Write a note to a small business you love, encouraging them and letting them know why you so appreciate what they do.
11. Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
12. Focus on your active listening skills. Really pay attention to what people are saying and expressing with their bodies. Respond with empathy.
13. Order a flag for your home or a sticker for your car that supports LGBTQ+ people. Commit to being an ally.
14. Start a weekly “Tech Free Night” in your home. Use that time to do a fun activity as a family, couple, or with a friend.
15. Reflect on your own experiences of loneliness and isolation. Mine them for ideas about what was helpful for you during those times, and consider how they have shaped you in ways that can help others in similar circumstances.
16. Return something you’ve borrowed from a friend or neighbor. Or, borrow something just to make a connection!
17. Find or create a group to go caroling together.
18. Send a note of support to a college student, person in the military, missionary, or other person you know who cannot be with family during the holidays.
19. Ask someone to help you with a small task or favor. Resilience grows through mutual aid.
20. Watch a movie about loneliness or isolation and the power of human connection. There are so many: Wall-E, Castaway, Lars and the Real Girl, Lost in Translation, Short Term 12, Pariah, Spirited Away, The Elephant Man, and dozens more. [NOTE: Some movies may not be appropriate for all audiences. Please use your own judgment about titles you want to include in your post. Numerous lists can be found online of movies about loneliness and isolation.]
21. Connect with an elderly person or couple you know who may be isolated or suffer from loneliness.
22. Create a post about loneliness and isolation, sharing a personal story. Someone you know may need to hear it!
23. Check in on someone who has lost a family member or beloved pet recently. This may be a difficult time for them.
24. Join or re-engage with a Facebook group related to a shared and possibly isolating experience you understand, such as one for parents of ADHD kids, people with a certain disability, or people fighting climate change.
25. Visit an animal shelter. Pet a kitten or play with an elderly dog. Share their photos on social media.
26. Offer to babysit (for free) for a parent or couple who could really use a night away.
27. Make a connection with a server at a restaurant, a cashier, a person who cleans your home, or other person who frequently works alone. Tip extravagantly.
28. Follow an organization that is working on issues of loneliness and isolation, such as The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, www.hopefulneighborhood.org or Helpspring, www.helpspring.com.
29. Ask a friendly question of someone sitting alone near you on a train, bus, in a coffee shop, at church, etc., and see where the conversation takes you.
30. Listen to some wistful, melancholy holiday songs. Reflect on why there are so few of them when so many of us feel so alone in this time.
31. Write a poem about loneliness or isolation. Share it with someone.
32. Got a dollar store near you? Go stock up on cards, especially related to death and grief, thinking of you, thank you notes, and general greetings. Consider adding a task to your calendar to send one card per week.
33. Send a text to a friend in your contact list just to say you’re thinking about them.
34. Walk around with a smile on your face. Try to make eye contact with people all day.
35. Your talents (home repair, sewing, music, dog walking, or whatever!) might be just the thing to help someone feel more connected and loved today. What could you plan to share in some way with others soon?
36. Are you wanting to do something special in the future, like go to a sports event or a museum? Who could you invite to join you and share the fun?
37. Think about your workplace, school, or somewhere you volunteer regularly. What are the barriers there that prevent connection and community? What might you be able to do to help?
38. Engaging in service is a way to reduce your own loneliness alone while making the experience of others better too. Look for a place to volunteer at soon where you can engage with others.
39. Listen to a story about “care farms” and how they help people experiencing anxiety, depression and grief. Search for a care farm near you. https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2023/11/06/care-farms-us
40. Start a journal, calendar, or spreadsheet where you note dates when an acquaintance has lost someone special to them. Use your list to remind you to reach out to them on the anniversary of the death. People rarely get remembered at that significant moment in life.
41. Ask your spiritual leader to give a sermon, teach a class, or otherwise address the epidemic of loneliness in your faith community.
42. Find (or start!) a local community group you can join, whether it’s a casual monthly group that just meets for coffee and conversation or a service organization that has regular meetings. If your calendar is already full, take some time to familiarize yourself with groups that exist in your area, so you can suggest them to others.
43. Research has shown that people who bike feel a greater sense of connection to their community. Commit to getting a bike, riding a bike, or advocating for cycling and cyclists.
44. If your cell phone has a way to track the time you spend on social media, start tracking your time for at least a week. Consider whether the time you spend on social really does help you to feel more connected, less isolated, and have a greater sense of community with others. If not, consider how else you might spend that time.
45. Spend some time looking at a nonprofit or religious organization’s website, paying attention to how well you think it does at connecting with people in everything from its buttons to the site copy. Share your feedback with the organization.
46. As you’re planning your holiday gift giving, strongly consider giving gifts of time to the people on your list. Gifts of helping, conversation, and shared activities are all worth considering.
47. Spend a few minutes thinking about the statistics about loneliness at https://www.rootsofloneliness.com/loneliness-statistics. What stands out to you?
48. 71% of heavy social media users say they experience feelings of loneliness. Whether or not you’re a heavy user of social media, reflect on when it makes you feel lonelier and when it makes you feel more connected to others.
49. When you pray or meditate, remember people who are lonely, and be thankful for the relationships that sustain you.
50. Scroll through your photos on your phone or computer. Celebrate the memories, think about your family and friends, and share some favorites with them.
51. On Christmas day, think anew about the story of the birth of Jesus. Many biblical scholars believe he was not born in some isolated barn but in a home full of relatives. How does this change your experience of the story? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/23/jesus-christ-not-born-in-stable-theologian-new-testament
52. On Christmas day, many people still have to work in gas stations and grocery stores, hospitals and fire stations, homeless shelters and group homes. If you encounter or know anyone working today, encourage them with a kind word, deliver a small gift, or send them a text message of love and gratitude.
Note: If you like the image we used for the header, you can purchase it and other variants here.