The holiday season is generally thought of as a time of joy and love, but for far too many people, it’s a time of loneliness. Some people live far from family and miss seeing their loved ones this time of year; others dread going to holiday parties without a partner and end up staying home. This year due to the pandemic there will probably be more people spending the holidays alone.
For those who feel a sense of loneliness, holidays can be a time of additional stress. Here are some suggestions to consider.
Be good to yourself. Taking special care of yourself can help you to feel better and enjoy your solitude more. You can take a relaxing bath and give yourself spa treatments, curl up with a good book, enjoy a hobby, or learn something new.
Understand that you are not alone. Many people wish they could be with family but can’t. Likewise, many people long for closer connections with friends or may find themselves feeling isolated during the holidays. While it may be uncomfortable to feel lonely, it’s also OK to feel this way. Talking to others who may share your feelings (either via the internet or in real life) can help you to feel less alone in your situation.
Rethink your expectations. Part of why holidays feel lonelier for many people is that our society has high expectations for this time of year. Realize that few peoples’ lifestyles truly measure up to “movie standards” of perfect living. Shift your focus to all the great things you do have in your life. Reach out to a neighbor or friend who may enjoy your company this year.
Get connected. Whether you’re saying hello to neighbors, exchanging friendly words with people at the grocery store, or picking up the phone and calling an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, reaching out to people and strengthening bonds can help you feel more connected and less lonely.
Cultivate gratitude. One easy antidote to the feeling that you’re missing something is to cultivate feelings of gratitude for what you already have. Try to focus on the good people in your life like friends, family, neighbors, and even pets. You can also focus on things you really value in your life, like your work, your hobbies, or even your potential.
According to Psychology Today, gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. It is an affirmation of goodness and warmth that is spontaneously generated from within.
This social emotion strengthens relationships, and its roots run deep in evolutionary history—emanating from the survival value of helping others and being helped in return. Studies show that specific areas of the brain are involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude. Brain scans of people assigned a task that stimulates expression of gratitude show lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude.
Give to others. One way to feel less lonely during the holidays is to donate your time to a cause you believe in. Helping others can fill you with feelings of love and pride. It also can remind you of all you have to be grateful for, and even connect you with others who share your passion. You will be part of something larger than yourself, and you’ll be immersing yourself in the true spirit of the holiday season.