The Christmas holiday season is generally a time of joy, laughter, love and giving, but for many people, it can be the loneliest time of the year.
Anyone can experience loneliness, but older people are particularly vulnerable, especially during the holidays. Over half of people aged 75 or over live alone. Recent research shows that nearly a million older people feel more lonely over the Christmas period.
But older adults are not the only ones at risk of loneliness. It’s something that also affects young adults - sometimes more than older age groups. Young people live through many life changes like moving to a new school and leaving home to go to university. Such changes brings challenges and a risk of social isolation in the form of being separated from friends, family and familiar places.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce feelings of loneliness, no matter your age. If you or someone you care about is affected, this article offers some tips on how to deal with loneliness during the holiday season.
What can I do to feel less lonely?
If you’re affected by loneliness, there are things you can do to connect with others and make the Christmas holiday a more fun, sociable time. Here are some things you can try.
1. Connect with family and friends at Christmas
When we’re weighed down by negative feelings, reaching out to others can be difficult. We may convince ourselves that no one cares about us or that we aren’t worth anyone’s time, but chatting with friends or family members can remind us that there are people who love and support us. Give them a phone call, have a catch-up or plan a night of family Christmas games. You could even join a local community event such as a local walking or singing group, a book club or a quiz night.
2. Get into the giving spirit
If you don’t like the sound of any of the events in your area, why not try volunteering? This can help to boost your self-esteem and give you a greater sense of purpose. You’re also likely to meet new people, which may lead to new friendships.
3. Use the internet
The internet makes it easier to stay in touch with your loved ones, especially if they live far away. There are many services you can use, including email or Facebook and Twitter, or you can make video calls via Skype or FaceTime.
If you aren’t very good with technology, consider taking part in a training course to learn some basic computer skills. These are sometimes offered at libraries or community centres. However, spending too much time online can make any feelings of loneliness worse, so try to combine online socialising with in-person activities.
4. Plan your Christmas week
Spending time on hobbies or activities you enjoy may reduce feelings of loneliness. Fill your week with enjoyable activities like going to the park, carolling or seeing a play. Whether you plan to go alone or with friends, keep a note of it in your diary. This will give you something to look forward to and take your mind off negative thoughts.
Making time for outdoor sports like cycling or jogging can also be helpful. Here are some tips and ideas for exercising in winter.
How can you help other people feel less lonely?
Loneliness isn’t always obvious; someone may be struggling even if they seem busy. If you know someone who may be affected by loneliness over the holidays, spread the Christmas cheer by reaching out to them. You can invite them along to some festive events or offer to go to a new club or activity with them.
Where to find more help
There’s no reason to be ashamed of loneliness. It’s a very real human emotion that we all experience from time to time.
If you’re struggling with low mood as a result of loneliness, see a doctor for advice. You can also take a look at this article on low mood and depression. It provides information on the types of help available to you.