While the upcoming holiday season is hotly anticipated by many, it can be a lonely time of the year for others. Yet, for those who find themselves on their own, there are simple ways to deal with that sense of loneliness.
Christmas – imagery versus reality
Families gathered around tables piled high with food, excitedly swapping presents and sitting down together to watch a Christmas movie on television. All images that many associate and identify with during the holiday season. But Christmas is certainly not like this for everyone – far from it, in fact.
Feelings of loneliness increase for many over Christmas. The celebrating, partying, and socializing in the lead-up to the holidays are followed by a sudden shift into a sense of emptiness and being alone as workplaces, schools, and shops close for the festive season. It is easy to feel that everyone is at a party we have not been invited to.
It doesn’t help that Christmas adverts portray images of Christmas that are often a step away from reality yet give us all an idea of what Christmas should look like.
The build-up to the holidays seems to start earlier each year. Studies show that people begin to think about Christmas as early as August. With the cost of living crisis hitting people hard this year, many have been planning their spending in advance.
So by the time Christmas finally arrives, the festive messages and imagery will have been intensifying for weeks, if not months.
Will you be spending Christmas alone?
Should you be spending Christmas alone this festive season, while thoughts of loneliness may not be too far away, there are things you can do to manage your experience if you plan to spend time by yourself over advent. Although Christmas may be all around you, try to take the positives out of the holiday season.
Don’t be fooled – remember that fewer people are having a glossy family celebration straight out of one of the supermarket adverts than you think. Indeed, for some people, this will be a busy period, but for others, it will be a time of being alone and a period of quiet reflection.
Research has found Christmas can be a time of decreased wellbeing, even for people surrounded by their loved ones. Reasons include family tensions and financial worries. This year the cost of living crisis and industrial disputes will throw many people’s plans into chaos.
All these elements may come together to disrupt that idea of the stereotypical Christmas full of cheer everyone else is experiencing without us.
Perceived social isolation
And while we often think of isolation as something that impacts older people, research confirms loneliness affects all people of all ages. Some studies have found younger people are more likely to report feeling lonely than other age groups.
There can be a huge temptation to scroll through social media feeds when we are alone to see what everyone else is doing. But high levels of social media consumption is associated with increased negative mood and worsened loneliness.
Tips to get you through Christmas
If you are worried about spending Christmas alone, then let My Mind News suggest some tips to assist you.
1. Connect with others
Put yourself out there to friends, family, loved ones, or a group you feel connected to. Being part of a group with which you share a purpose and identity can raise your spirits.
If you hesitate to talk to people you know because you worry they won’t have time, think about how you would respond if they reached out to you. If you would make time for them, the chances are they will, too – even if it’s just for a quick chat.
2. Take time for gratitude
When we feel alone, we can end up in a negative loop where feelings of loneliness lead to negative thoughts which reinforce loneliness. Taking a moment to practice gratitude breaks this cycle.
3 Invent your own rituals
Spending the holidays by yourself doesn’t mean Christmas can’t be special. Why not keep to the rituals of Christmas to boost your mental health and help combat feelings of loneliness. Ultimately, you can decide what Christmas means to you, giving you the freedom to choose how you wish to spend the holiday season.
The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well known. Even the most gentle exercise can do wonders to cheer you up. Taking the time to focus mindfully on a walk and lean into solitude can help lift you out of a downward spiral.
5. Catch up on books and box sets
Allow yourself to get stuck in a good book. Reading can brighten your mood. If you are not confident in reading, you can always listen to an audiobook or indulge in a box set that you ordinarily wouldn’t have time for.
Consider volunteering with any range of age groups, communities, animal shelters, or charities. Volunteering can reduce loneliness and increase your sense of connectedness. Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. There can be many positive aspects of being alone that you can lean into over Christmas.
Embrace the positives of Christmas
While others may have been talking about Christmas for weeks – conversations you might have shied away from, use this time to embrace what is important to you.
See the additional spare time afforded by the holiday season to achieve goals you set for yourself, catch up on rest and sleep, or simply be grateful for what you have rather than what you have not.