Two men and two women wearing Santa hats, grinning and toasting each other with champagne glasses

Why is it that Christmas often fails to live up to our expectations? We plan for it months ahead with great enthusiasm, but when it arrives it often leaves us cold. If you recognise this description, and are facing the prospect of Christmas with some dread, read on.

The reason that Christmas often disappoints can be explained, I believe, quite easily. It is because we put our own pleasure at the very heart of it. We plan in great detail what we will eat, drink and do. But the pleasure that we receive from all these things is often transitory. The show turns out to be a bit predictable, the journey home from the theatre too long. The Christmas fair proves a bit bland, while the drink fails to be as special as we had expected. We may put great thought into the presents we are going to give others, but we feel that the presents we receive lack the same thoughtfulness.

Before long we start wishing that the whole Christmas period would just end. That the guests would go home and that we could get on back to our ordinary life, from which we had been trying to escape.

For millions across the country, Christmas is even worse than this. It will be a time of almost unbearable loneliness, sadness and regret. People ache for the company and affection of loved ones, but for whatever reason they find themselves feeling depressed, whether they are on their own or in big gatherings. Knowing that everybody around us appears to be having a great time can accentuate sadness to dangerous levels.

Help is very much at hand, the solution completely straightforward. We need to place other people, not ourselves, at the heart of our entire Christmas experience. I defy any reader not to feel much better inside themselves after helping others. The old adage says it all: if you want to feel good, do good. So confident am I that this formula works that I will offer a free year’s subscription to the Observer to the first reader who contacts me to say that their spirits have not been lifted. Invite the widower on the other side of the street in for Christmas lunch. Arrange to meet up with an old friend or family member who you know would love to hear from you.

Best recipe of all: spend part of the Christmas period volunteering. Every town, village and city offers a host of opportunities. Crisis, the UK charity for homeless people, founded in 1967, has a series of homeless shelters which need volunteers. So popular is it that some of the shelters become oversubscribed quite early. Volunteers regularly describe how they might arrive at the shelter feeling low and apprehensive but leave with their hearts singing and their whole outlook on life transformed.

Young people can become inducted into the habits of lifelong volunteering if they have positive experiences of doing it when still at school age. The #iwill campaignwas launched two years ago by Prince Charles. It aims to have 60% of young people volunteering by 2020. It has already made an enormous difference, with schools which back the campaign reporting much better atmospheres and attitudes to academic work and employers saying that they readily seek to take on young people who have acted as volunteers because they prove such good employees.

The message is very clear. Self-indulgence will not make for a happy Christmas. But do some volunteering and caring for others and you will find that your Christmas lunch will taste better than ever. Magic!

[Source:-the gurdian]

By Adam