#WinterWarmers: help raise community spirit this Christmas

Eden Project's #WinterWarmers campaign asks people to carry out an act of kindness to raise community spirit this Christmas as survey shows 40% of UK adults are feeling anxious this festive season.

Eden Project Communities is today (Wednesday 9 December) launching its Winter Warmers campaign, encouraging people to carry out an act of Christmas kindness after new research shows more than 40% of adults are feeling more anxious, worried and fearful.

Data from OnePoll carried out on behalf of Eden Project Communities shows that 63% of UK adults reported a negative empotional impact from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, national lockdowns and social restrictions, and just over 40% of UK adults said they are experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, worry or fear, tiredness and boredom.

A further 33% said they felt an increased level of depression and hopelessness.

Community spirit has fallen say another 29% of all UK adults, who feel it is lower now than during national lockdown in spring, with 26% reporting lower levels of support, conversations and contact with neighbours.

#WinterWarmers is a Christmas initiative launched by Eden Project Communities, who lead the Covid-19 pandemic Community Action Response effort.  They say many people will struggle to get through the festive season this year unless we raise community spirit and neighbourliness is rekindled.

As part of the #WinterWarmers campaign, people are invited to undertake one of five small acts of kindness to help build community spirit and support those around them this Christmas:

  • Say hello to your neighbours and people in the street
  • Decorate a fun festive window to cheer up passers-by
  • Make and share a small gift for a neighbour or friend
  • Get in touch with someone you miss with a card, a call, or an online get together
  • Bring a bit of sing-song joy to the neighbourhood - Kerbside Carols are great for this!

These aren't the only ways that you can help bring some festive spirit to your community, and as thousands of people will this year face Christmas alone for the first time due to social distancing restrictions, it is important to remember to reach out to those in need.

Peter Stewart, Eden Project Executive Director believes the research shows the "huge emotional toll" of ongoing social restrictions and has encouraged people to reach out to show kindness at Christmas.

He said: "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."

Ben Brown, 48, from the Cotswolds, has spent Christmas Day alone for almost the last 20 years and said this year he thinks more people will feel the impact of losing a loved one, because of the pandemic, than in previous years.

The IT manager who will be seeing his daughter on Boxing Day said: "I live by myself and it's just turned into another day. I think the whole message of that time of year has evaporated, and people aren't going around to see if their neighbours are okay, and the community spirit just isn't the same.

"I think the time when you're most aware you're alone is when you first get up, but I think for a lot of people it's that realisation, and people feel really down, that they don't have any family coming to visit or presents to open.

"There's going to be thousands of people who have lost someone this year, and I think this year will be particularly hard in small families, lots of families will have lost loved ones, and Aunty Jane in the corner drinking a sherry won't be there for the first time and they will be dearly missed."

He has encouraged those alone at Christmas to get online, and take part in Zoom quizzes or even just reach out on social media to anyone feeling lonely.

"I think anything that encourages as many people as possible, in a mass Zoom meeting or get together, to support others alone at Christmas is an incredible idea, and it is incredibly important to still reach out to others.  I always think if I can put a smile on somebody else's face on Christmas day who is also feeling lonely, then I've done a good thing," he said.

Tracey Robbins, Eden Project Communities Head of UK Delivery, influential in raising the loneliness agenda, said: "We're not built for isolation - loneliness is harmful to our health and more pervasive than ever.  Our new data is a stark reminder of the crisis we're in and why we need #WinterWarmers to help us connect in our communities.

She said: "People need to reach out, express interest and show we care for the people living around us.  Feeling a sense of human connection is vital to all of us, but especially for those living with loneliness this Christmas."

#WinterWarmers is a campaign from Eden Project Communities, made possible by The National Lottery, to encourage people to be kind, connect, share and support others in their communities.

Join in, with ideas and inspiration to get started at edenprojectcommunities.com