“Language… has created the word ‘loneliness‘ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone”. -Paul Tillich
Halloween has come and gone and November is here to stay so it is time to turn up the Christma music, start planning for Thanksgiving and begin thinking about our upcoming New Year’s resolutions…or not. I love the holidays but I do not enjoy rushing into them however we live in a consumer savvy world and the holiday season can definitely trigger many mixed emotions.
The holiday season can be joyous for many but can be triggering for individuals who are alone, who recently lost a loved one or who suffer from a mood disorder such as depression. We live in a society where the holidays are centered on wrapping presents, attending parties, and gathering with loved ones however many spend the holidays alone whether it because of their work schedules, due to their physical health or simply because they do not have any family or friends near to them. Loneliness around the holidays can manifest in depressed moods, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and guilt and even suicidal tendencies. The following are ways to connect with others and connect with yourself if you are alone during the holidays.
Reach out to friends and family: Just because you’re unable to spend time with certain family members or friends during the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them in other ways. Reaching out to your social connections is good for your mental and emotional health. It boosts your sense of belonging, while also strengthening your social network. All it takes is a festive text message, a funny social media post, a handwritten card, a phone call or an electronic email holiday greeting to let someone know you care, which boosts his or her overall wellness too.
Be proactive: Even though you may be alone during the holidays, you can still engage in the holiday spirit. Bake holiday cookies, take a night to check out your neighborhood Christmas lights, decorate a Christmas tree, attend community holiday festivals, attend church, and attend at least one-holiday party. Increasing pleasant and meaningful activities have been shown to have broad support for individuals who have problems with mood.
Volunteer: Giving back around the holidays can help promote wellness and gratitude. Whether you volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, donate gifts to children in need to help set up holiday community events; volunteering is a great way to meet people and boost your mood.
Start a new holiday tradition for yourself: It can be sad to reminisce on old holiday traditions if you have lost a loved one however it can also be therapeutic. For many, acknowledging and practicing old holiday traditions can bring a sense of belonging and joy, however, starting your own holiday tradition can also be a way to overcome loss and help curb your loneliness. Whether it is baking a holiday dessert, volunteering at a soup kitchen, purchasing and decorating a tree, cooking a Thanksgiving meal yourself or sending handwritten greeting cards; coming up with a new holiday tradition can be a great way to get in the holiday spirit while starting a new beginning for yourself.
Travel: If you have the finances, get away for a few days. Go skiing or take a tropical holiday. Singles groups often have tour groups during the holidays or take a trip by yourself and live outside your comfort zone.
For those who feel emotionally isolated but do have people around them, the holidays are a good time to work on deepening emotional connections you already have. Choose one person with whom you might get closer over the holidays and make an effort to spend time with them, talk with them, or do activities together.