Six ways to reduce loneliness this Christmas – from a psychologist

<span classe=Christmas isn’t always the best time of the year Stock-Ace/Shutterstock” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYyMQ–/”data “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYyMQ–/″/>0d906e9”

Snowmen, tables full of food, and families having fun together – these are the images that probably come to mind when you think of Christmas.

In fact, feelings of loneliness are magnified for many during Christmas. The partying and socializing leading up to the big day is quickly followed by a lingering vacuum as offices, schools and shops close for the holiday season. It may seem that the whole world is involved in a universal Christmas experience from which we are excluded.

It doesn’t help that Christmas commercials tap into our emotions and build an expectation of what Christmas should be like.

The buildup appears to start earlier each year, with evidence suggesting people start thinking about Christmas as early as August, and with the cost-of-living crisis people have planned their spending ahead of time. So when Christmas rolls around, the festive messages have been escalating for weeks if not months.

Christmas itself is difficult, if not possible, to escape from entirely. But there are things you can do to manage your experience if you plan on spending time alone during Advent.

It can be helpful to keep in mind that far fewer people are throwing a glossy family celebration straight from a Coca-Cola commercial than you’d expect. For some people this will be a busy time, but for others it will be a time of quiet reflection.

Christmas is a varied experience. There is no prevailing version that applies to all, or even most people. Many people work over the Christmas period and students (especially international students) may or may not be able to return to their familiar homes.

Research has found that Christmas can be a time of less well-being even for people surrounded by loved ones. Reasons include family tensions and financial worries. The cost-of-living crisis and labor disputes will throw many people’s plans into chaos this year. All of this will overturn that stereotype of a universal Christmas full of joy that everyone else is experiencing without us.

And while we often think of loneliness as something that affects the elderly, research confirms that loneliness affects all people of all ages. Some studies have found that young people are actually more likely to feel lonely than other age groups.

There can be a huge temptation to scroll through social media feeds when we’re alone to see what other people are up to. But high levels of social media consumption are associated with increased negative mood and worsened loneliness.

Instead, if you’re worried about spending Christmas alone, why not try some of these tips.

1. Connect with others

Get involved with friends, family, loved ones, or a group you feel connected to. For example, join a running group if you like exercise. Being part of a group with which you share a purpose and identity can lift your spirits. If you hesitate to talk to people you know because you fear they may not have time, think about how you would respond if they contacted you. If you want to make time for them, chances are they will too. Even if it’s just for a chat.

2. Volunteering

Consider volunteering with any age group, community, animal shelter or charity. Volunteering can reduce loneliness and increase a sense of connectedness.

Feeling alone is not the same thing as being alone. There can be many positive aspects of being alone that you can lean on during Christmas.

3. Take time for gratitude

When we feel lonely, we can get into a negative cycle where feelings of loneliness lead to negative thoughts that reinforce loneliness. Taking a moment to practice gratitude breaks this cycle.

It can boost your well-being by redirecting your thoughts towards more uplifting aspects of life. Regularly practicing gratitude has been found to reduce loneliness and even depression.

4. Keep up with books and box sets

Allow yourself to get stuck in a good book. Reading can brighten your mood. If you’re not sure about reading, you can always listen to an audiobook or treat yourself to a box set that you normally wouldn’t have time for.

Man walking on a small boardwalk in the frozen countryside during a winter sunrise.

5. Exercise

The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well known. Even the gentlest exercise can do wonders for cheering you up. Taking the time to mindfully focus on a walk and lean into solitude can help lift you off a downward spiral.

6. Enjoy the rituals

Spending the season alone doesn’t mean Christmas can’t be special. If Christmas is something you love, rituals associated with Christmas can improve your mental health and fight loneliness.

Remind yourself that you get to decide what Christmas means to you and how you want to spend it, and that’s a gift.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The conversation

The conversation

Nilufar Ahmed does not work for, consult with, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *