It’s never easy to make it through the day when you’re feeling lonely, and even individuals who have never lost someone they cared about feel the sting of being on their own from time to time. But the holidays–a time centered on family and loved ones–can be particularly painful for individuals who are alone, making it even more important to know how to overcome loneliness this time of year.
“Loneliness is not only painful emotionally but it can have a devastating impact on one’s long term psychological and physical health,” stated Guy Winch, Ph.D., for Psychology Today. “Loneliness predisposes us to depression and increases our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it suppresses our immune system functioning, it stresses our cardiovascular systems, and when chronic, it affects our very longevity.”
To help boost your mood and overcome loneliness during this time of year, experts offer the following tips:
- Remember it is okay to be sad: Feeling like you’re the only one in the world who is sad this time of year it can make your mood even worse. Understand that grief is natural; it’s okay to miss people you care about.
- Don’t let your daily routine slip: Loneliness can progress into depression, a serious mental condition. If you are starting to feel like you couldn’t care less about your daily routine or hygiene, it may be a sign you have crossed the line from just being lonely into needing professional help.
- Remind yourself of how stressful the holidays can be: Health Central suggests one way to overcome loneliness during the holidays is to remind yourself just how stressful it can be to participate in family events. Even though it may be lonely to be solo on Christmas or New Years, for some people that may be more relaxing than family drama.
- Decorate and cook, even if just for yourself: Don’t let yourself be convinced that it isn’t worth your time to decorate for being alone on the holidays. If it’s Christmas time, put up your decorations. Even if you don’t feel like you’re in the holiday spirit initially, decorations and cooking a nice meal for yourself can keep the holiday special.
- Avoid alcohol: Even if you’re a happy drunk when in the company of others, drinking and loneliness are a bad combination. Keep the holiday cheer to non-alcoholic.
- Do things you like on the special day: Aside from decorating and cooking for yourself, keep the holiday upbeat by doing things you enjoy. It can be as simple as a movie marathon of your favorite films or a long bubble bath. It’s a holiday. Do what you need to do to enjoy it.
- Volunteer: PsychCentral indicates doing things for others rather than focusing on how to overcome loneliness can be the secret to making it through the holidays. If you are alone and can’t shake those self-defeating thoughts, use your time to volunteer serving those who are really disadvantaged. Soup kitchens and shelters are always looking for help during the holidays. Not only will you not be alone, but you will be improving the lives of others.
Most importantly, experts remind you to remember loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. You can work through your loneliness as long as you realize you are never really alone. If you feel overwhelmed, make sure you seek out help. Sometimes loneliness can be a warning sign of a more serious condition.