12 ways to good mental wellbeing for the festive season

Last reviewed on 21 December 2020

After many months of uncertainty, the recent changes to the COVID-19 restrictions might have felt quite overwhelming. As London is now in Tier 4 (Stay at Home), you might have had to change your plans for Christmas and not be able to see your loved ones.

In a survey by Eden Project Communities earlier in December, almost two-thirds (63%) of people said that the COVID-19 restrictions have had a negative emotional impact on them and 40% admitted to feeling anxious this festive season.

As Eden Project Executive Director Peter Stewart says, “People feel under increasing strain over Christmas – they may not be able to see loved ones or might not feel they have people who care around them. There is lots we can do, simply having a chat and raising a smile with people who live nearby will increase the sense of community spirit, rekindling neighbourliness and could even help to alleviate someone’s loneliness.”

The #ChristmasTogether initiative by the NHS and Royal Voluntary Service echoes this sentiment, noting that, “A vaccine is coming, and hope is on the horizon, but first we have to get through the darkest and coldest months to come. Many people are feeling vulnerable, lonely or anxious. The Christmas spirit of connection and goodwill has never felt more important than it does right now.”

At the end of a challenging year, it’s important that you take time to focus on your mental wellbeing. In this article, we suggest 12 ways to do this over the festive season, including creating small moments of connection through technology and being kind to others. Please remember to follow the latest COVID-19 guidance from the UK Government.

Reach out with kindness image

  1. Connect with your neighbours (following social distancing rules, of course) – wave hello from your home or say hi if you see them in the street, send them a Christmas card or a text or WhatsApp message. Or you could simply decorate your window to share some festive cheer. Follow #WinterWarmers and #GreatWinterGetTogether on social media to find out more.
  2. Stay active – regular exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. Try to think of ways to exercise safely. Start small and increase what you are doing when it feels right. Find tools to kickstart your health on the NHS Better Health website and check out Captain Tom’s fundraising walks (#WalkWithTom) for some extra motivation.
  3. Become an NHS Volunteer Responder – you might be asked to deliver essential shopping to someone who lives locally or have a friendly chat with them on the phone. Acts of kindness like this are not only good for the other person, they can also give you a feeling of achievement and boost your mood. Visit the #ChristmasTogether website for more information.
  4. Learn something new – read a book, work on a DIY project, try out a new recipe on Christmas Day or sign up to do an online course in 2021. This isn’t just a good way to stop you getting bored; it can also increase your confidence and self-esteem. Check out the courses available on FutureLearn.
  5. Call an old friend for a chat – everyone’s had a tough year so they will appreciate the thought (just make sure you ask them how they really are). Follow #HaveAChat or #BeMoreUs on social media for other suggestions about staying in touch.
  6. Set yourself some personal goals for 2021 – whether it’s ‘Have a family dinner together at least twice a week’ or ‘Go for a walk every day’, having achievable goals is good for your mental wellbeing. Start small and build from there. If you’d like help setting goals and developing new habits, download the tomo app.
  7. Get enough sleep – when you’re stressed or anxious, one of the things that helps the most is having a good night’s sleep. There are lots of things you can do to improve your sleep habits. Listen to the Good Thinking podcast with an NHS sleep expert.
  8. Arrange an online meet-up with relatives or friends (especially if they are on their own at the moment) – could you set up a games night over Zoom or watch Christmas movies together on Teleparty? Get more ideas from this Wired article.
  9. Spend time in nature – go for a socially-distanced Boxing Day walk with (in Tier 4, you're allowed to meet one person from another household outdoors), potter around your garden or download a stargazing app for the kids so you can all check out the night sky. Read Good Thinking’s article about connecting with nature.
  10. Be present – take a break from your devices and really notice what’s going on in your thoughts, your feelings, your body and the world around you. Listen to Good Thinking’s mindfulness podcast and download the Be Mindful app.
  11. If your situation allows this, consider what you could give to someone else – could you donate some old clothing or your old mobile phone to a charity? Or could you volunteer for a local community organisation? Search online for charities in your area and check whether your mobile phone provider runs a recycle and re-use scheme.
  12. Be kind to yourself – set aside some ‘me time’ to do what you enjoy doing or create a self-care box containing things that make you feel good. Find other suggestions in this article by Happiful.

Listen to Good Thinking’s podcast on loneliness and read our articles about five ways to good mental wellbeing and focusing on rewarding activities.