What to do if you experience loneliness around the holidays
Loneliness happens to the best of us, and most of us have experienced it at one point in our lifetime.
According to an article on BuzzFeed written by Katie Camero, “Loneliness is one of the most universal feelings, and it can happen to anyone — the young, the old, and everyone in between. In fact, more than a third of adults in the US over age 45 say they’re lonely.” That’s according to a Harvard study conducted last year.
Camero wrote these four things might be the catalyst:
- Shattered friendships
- Stressful holiday gatherings
- Unfulfilling romantic relationships
- A deadly pandemic
I can attest to feeling extremely lonely after my mother and stepdad passed away. During that time, the pandemic hit, and I went further down the loneliness rabbit hole.
Seattle-based psychotherapist Amy Alpine said taking any kind of class can help.
“It gets you out. It’s social,” Alpine said. “And it gets you to engage in an activity.”
Alpine, a professional comedian, suggests taking an improv or stand-up comedy class.
“It gets you out of the mindset of ‘should I say this or do this?'” Alpine stated.
A comedy class gets someone to look at a problem or something that depresses them and makes them look for a funny or positive aspect.
“Exercise may be the best antidepressant that exists,” Alpine said. “Also, be aware of your sugar intake over the holidays. Sugar picks you up and then slams you down.”
BuzzFeed asked readers who felt lonely to share their solutions.
One suggested starting to do Yoga at a studio. Experts suggest yoga because it “helps re-establish that connection between our minds, bodies, and the present moment through mindfulness.”
There were other thoughts.
- Hike in Nature to honor a loved one
- If you are an empty nester, you can join a social group online or IRL (In Real Life Let go of friends that you have outgrown
- Talk to your parents or loved ones about your loneliness
- Travel alone or take a cruise with like-minded people
- Create a new routine in the morning or at night. Join a running, biking, or swimming group
- Volunteer at an animal shelter (and spend some time in the puppy or kitty room let the petting and puppy kisses commence)
- Adopt a cat (a pup is a possibility as well. However, they might require more work)
In an article published by WebMD, author Michele Jordan had more ideas.
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Be kind to yourself
Your inner critic can feed feelings of loneliness. If you think you’re different from other people or that you don’t fit in, it can be harder to bond with others. You could get stuck in a lonely rut. Recognize your thoughts and see them as a chance to make some changes.
“Loneliness is like pain,” said David Cates, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, NE. “It can be hard to measure, but you know when you feel it.”
Recognizing that you’re out of sorts can be a sign that you may need more time with friends and family.
Be kind to others
Taking time out of your schedule to help others can be a great help. Lending a hand can unlock your inner joy and help you feel like part of a larger community. Check on an older relative or neighbor. Volunteer for a soup kitchen or a virtual community event.
There are days on the calendar that can make you sad. Plan ahead for tough days or seasons and put something fun on the calendar. Try to meet safely with friends or family. When a day (or time of year) you dread, have something you’re looking forward to instead, it can help.
“I call it proactive self-care,” Hightower said. “Recognize that you expect to feel lonely during a certain time, and be gentler with yourself.”
Plan a drive or meet with friends. Looking forward to something joyful can bring joy.
Use social media wisely
Hopping onto social media can help you feel connected, but too much time online can lead to loneliness.
“Social media can sometimes trick your mind into thinking you’re making real connections when you’re not,” Hightower said. “Social media isn’t bad, but it shouldn’t replace real connections.”
Take a look at how much time you spend online.
“We’re so focused on likes, but those don’t translate into feelings of connection,” said Adam Brown, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Instead, use social media to help you make connections that go beyond likes and comments. Play online games with your family and friends. Try out apps that let you watch a show or movie with another person.
If you find yourself sinking deeper into depression and have irrational thoughts, please reach out and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (988).