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Loneliness During the Holiday Season
By Cindy Jenkins, Extension Assistant Professor
When thinking about the holiday season it is usually accompanied by festive thoughts of mistletoe, tinsel, carols, eggnog, presents, friends, and family. However, sometimes the holidays also have an accompanying loneliness. A recent survey from the American Association of Retired Persons found that “thirty-one percent of respondents say they have felt lonely during the holiday season sometime during the past five years, and 41 percent have worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome” (Kerman, 2017). Perhaps these suggestions are for you or for a loved one, but here are some ideas on what you can do to enjoy the season no matter your situation.
- Service: It’s a good reminder to think of someone else or a good cause instead of yourself. Doing this can help improve your sense of self-worth (Wang et al, 2014). Among adolescents, service has shown to improve their conflict resolution skills and their vocational capacity (Hernantes et al, 2017). An act of service can be as easy as helping a family member, friend, or neighbor. You might try doing a Google search for service opportunities in your area.
- Social relationships: We all need friends, family, and loved ones. However, even those with loved ones around them have tough bouts of mental health (Ang, 2021) and can feel lonely at times. If you start feeling a little lonely this year, reach out to a few friends or family members. Even sending a text to a few people may help lift your spirits and mood.
- Self-love: Some psychologists believe that our level of self-love is connected to our ability to love others and that in order to love yourself you need to know and take care of yourself (Vadjed Samiei, 2016). Doing something nice for yourself can help you feel better (Wang et al, 2014). There are many ways you can do nice things for yourself – find one that is meaningful to you. For example, you could find a nice gift for yourself or give yourself some time to journal or do something you love.
- Gratitude: Tis the season to be grateful. Even when circumstances seem bleak, practicing gratitude can help you remember many of the good things you have in life. Studies show that gratitude is associated with well-being and can be used to face difficult times (Jans-Beken et al, 2017). To help increase one’s gratitude, one can express gratitude to those around them or make a list of all the items for which they are grateful.
In conclusion, there are many steps one can take to combat feelings of loneliness and poor mental health during the holiday season. Taking steps from the examples provided may help improve your mood and help abate loneliness.
- Ang, S. (2021). Your friends, my friends, and our family: Informal social participation and mental health through the lens of linked lives. Social Science & Medicine, 276, 113848. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113848
- Hernantes, N., Pumar-Méndez, M. J., López-Dicastillo, O., Iriarte, A., & Mujika, A. (2019). Volunteerism as adolescent health promotion asset: a scoping review. Health Promotion International, 35(3), 610–623. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daz026
- Jans-Beken, L., Lataster, J., Peels, D., Lechner, L., & Jacobs, N. (2017). Gratitude, psychopathology and subjective well-being: Results from a 7.5-month prospective general population study. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(6), 1673–1689. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9893-7
- Kerman, B. S. (2017, December 1). The Holiday Season: Joy, Love & Loneliness. AARP. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2017/holiday-season.html
- Wang, M. C., Tran, K. K., Nyutu, P. N., & Fleming, E. (2014). Doing the right thing: A mixed-methods study focused on generosity and positive well-being. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 9(3), 318–331. https://doi.org/10.1080/15401383.2014.890556
- Vadjed Samiei, M. (2016). An exploration of the concepts of self-love and inner peace and their interrelationships [ProQuest Information & Learning]. In Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering (Vol. 76, Issue 10–B(E)).