The meaning and spirit of the holiday season is different for many of us, but what stands out, is the companionship we share with others. It’s no secret that most of us remember the holidays as the time of year for bringing friends and families together for a time of celebration. According to a survey, over 67 percent of adults feel joyful when spending the holiday season with friends and families. Yet for some, that feeling won’t be experienced this holiday season. For them, loneliness remains an issue.
Loneliness can become an obstacle that prevents many people from fully experiencing the holiday season. The lack of companionship during this time of year can exacerbate our emotional isolation. It can leave us vulnerable to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression.
According to a recent UK report, 1.5 million people ages 65 and older state that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for them. The report also states that over 170,000 people will face this holiday season as widows or widowers, leaving them without the comfort of their spouse. If you find yourself facing a similar situation this holiday season, it’s important to address these three key areas and use them to enhance your holiday.
Examine your Social Situation
Every single one of us leads a different social life. Some of us seek interaction through the smallest of conversations while others isolate themselves or restrict their relations to a small group of like-minded individuals. While there’s nothing wrong with having a restricted social life, it takes discipline and action to break out of your comfort zone and become part of someone’s holiday plans. So the first step in avoiding loneliness this holiday season is to examine your current social situation. Ask yourself, “How did I put myself in this situation?” Perhaps you were afraid of rejection or the possibility of being perceived as boring.
In either case, you can start a casual conversation about the holidays with fellow co-workers or acquaintances. Rejection is not a foregone conclusion. According to Dr. Guy Winch, socially reluctant people “have nowhere to go when the holidays come around and end up feeling desperate and alone.” It’s a pattern that begins with the fear of rejection, which then leads to avoidance behavior, especially around the holidays.
In this scenario, it’s important to reframe your thought process and move away from self-defeating beliefs. In doing so, you can take baby steps forward by curiously asking what others in your social circle are doing during the holidays. Perhaps they may even extend an invite to you for a small gathering of some kind.
Avoid the Temptation of Social Media
While the holiday season has been labeled as a period of festivity, it’s also been the target of marketing, especially on social media platforms. These days, it’s nearly impossible to scroll through a Facebook newsfeed without seeing hundreds of advertisements about the holiday season. Big-brand retailers spend millions of dollars each year on holiday ad campaigns that depict the holiday season as a family gathering around the dinner table. To make matters worse, online users love to glamorize their own activities with countless pictures and detailed captions. Because of this, it’s important to limit your time on social media and not compare your holiday situation to others online. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations about the holiday season simply because your online friends bombard you with their own experiences. According to Dr. Paula Durlofksy, “spending countless of hours on social media and witnessing friends and families enjoying their holiday season can elicit deep feelings of depression, envy, comparison, and shame.”
Volunteer for Local Organizations
Finally, if faced with the challenge of spending the holidays alone, you can always reach out to local organizations that serve the community as well as those in need. Some of these services include soup kitchens, children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters. The holiday season provides us with opportunities to contribute our time helping those less fortunate in their current lives.
There are other options as well to select from. Animal shelters, neighborhood associations, and clothing centers, are all options for your volunteer needs. Ultimately, you can decide the volunteer service that best fits your holiday season. By gearing your holiday planning towards community involvement, you can connect with others, increase your self-esteem, and make a meaningful impact on the lives of others.
This website (www.rtor.org) is a free service of Laurel House, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization based in Stamford, CT. Laurel House provides mental health resources to people coping with mental illness, and their families, across numerous communities in and around Connecticut. If you happen to live nearby, you can help support mental health recovery in your community this holiday season or any time at all by volunteering at Laurel House.
About the Author: Ernesto Fierro lives in Tucson, Arizona and has experience writing on a variety of topics. As a Psychology graduate, he hopes to provide online readers with some mental health guidance through reading material meant to educate, inspire, and encourage others in their goals.
Kerman, Sarah., et al. “The holiday season: joy, love & loneliness.” AARP Research, November 2017, https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2017/holiday-season.html
Christmas, is the loneliest time of the year for over 1.5 million older people (2019, December 3rd). Retrieved from https://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-press/articles/2019/december/christmas-is-the-loneliest-time/
Winch, Guy., et al. “Surviving loneliness over the holidays.” Psychology Today, (2013, December 4th). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201312/surviving-loneliness-over-the-holidays
Durlofsky, Paula., et al. “5 ways to curb social media during the holidays.” Psych Central, (2018, July 8th). Retrieved from http://www.uploadinghope.com/2017/11/5-ways-to-curb-social-media-during.html
Appenbrink, Krisitin., et al. “5 of the best ways to volunteer this holiday season.” Nation Swell, (2014, November 26). Retrieved from https://nationswell.com/5-holiday-season-volunteer-ideas/
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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