Loneliness can be described in one way as the experience of not feeling connected — both in the present and extending into the future. While you can feel lonely in a solitary situation, loneliness can also be experienced when surrounded by others! For example, loneliness can be felt in marriages, relationships, families, and even those who appear to be highly successful in their careers.
This time of year, loneliness can be more intense because of all the stories in newspapers and on TV showing strong connections and bonds among people. The holidays are also a time when we remember loved ones no longer in our lives either through death or the breakup of a relationship.
Even the desire to gather with family may evoke feelings of loneliness especially if we don’t have a family or are estranged from family members. Unhappy childhoods or experiences related to the holidays may also be remembered when we gather with people who were unkind or continue to be hurtful from our past.
With all those potential emotions coming to the forefront, what can we do to reduce – even eliminate – feelings of loneliness that might negatively impact our holiday season? Here are a few tips that you might find helpful:
- Gather with friends and people who are supportive during this time of year. Make a point of seeking out kind friends or neighbors to visit.
- Make plans to spend the holiday at a soup kitchen or shelter to care for others. This is a great way to feel involved and needed.
- Write notes to people who have been thoughtful to you in some way throughout the past year.
- If you are a member of a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue, become more active. If you are not a member of a group or affiliated with a religious program, think about joining a book club at your library or other friendly group open to the public.
- Find time to explore new activities or pursue interests you may not have had an opportunity to try before.
- Offer to pet sit for people and care for animals as a way to feel connected or consider adopting a pet of your own!
- Talk with a therapist to put to rest negative, earlier experiences that still make you unhappy during the holidays.
- Lastly, make post-holiday plans for January (and beyond!) that you can look forward to and that will help ease the mixed feelings and emotions that you may be experiencing during this season.
— Kathy Miller, Owner