I first wrote this article about having the holiday blues last year and wanted to repost it because the global epidemic of loneliness and isolation is only getting worse. I’ve also been struggling recently, feeling shunned by my profession of twenty-five years and still not settled in New Mexico, which is galaxies away from New York City.
So, it seems this holiday is hitting me harder than most. If you’re like me, read on for some suggestions on what you can do. If you love the end-of-the-year celebrations but are sensitive to those who might not, there are also some suggestions on how you can help others around you.
Happy Holidays all – and may 2024 bring you all that you desire.
I admit it. I’m not too fond of the November/December holidays. I hate the materialism and pressure to have a great time. I detest Christmas music so much that I stay out of stores as much as possible. I’m taking earplugs if I have to shop this month.
I can also feel lonely this time of year. It doesn’t matter if it’s SAD (seasonal affective disorder), overstimulation, stress, or not feeling like I have anyone special in my life to celebrate with. The bottom line is I can often feel blue around the end of the year.
I used to think it was only me, but loneliness around the holidays is relatively common. According to the research company ValuePenguin, 55% of Americans experienced the holiday blues in 2021, an increase from the year before.
Gen Z’s were hit particularly hard, with 75% reporting loneliness. 65% of single adults felt lonely. The top reasons cited were not being around loved ones, seasonal depression, and grief.
LGBTQ+ Americans were especially affected, with 76% reporting holiday loneliness, mainly from poor family relationships.
Take heart if you’re one of the millions who don’t look forward to the end-of-year holidays. There are things you can do to help you get through the end of the year.
Loneliness vs. Being Alone
Even though you can feel lonely when you’re alone, there’s a vast difference between loneliness and being by yourself. Loneliness is an emotional state where you don’t feel connected to others. It can manifest anywhere in any situation. You can be in a room full of people and feel disconnected, or you can be on your own.
Many people who spend time alone are not lonely. Being alone is the physical state of not being around anyone else. Many people crave alone time – it’s spending time with yourself.
Living with Loneliness
When you’re dealing with loneliness, especially around the holidays, well-meaning people often tell you to do something with others. They don’t understand that loneliness is not about the people around you or where you are.
Loneliness stems from your relationship – or lack thereof – with yourself.
That’s way too big of a topic to address in this article. There are many personal development and self-help books that can help you tackle the root cause of any loneliness you might feel. Today, we’re looking at ideas to lessen loneliness so you can get through the holidays as peacefully as possible.
If You Can Be Around Others
If you think you’ll feel better being around other people but have no friends or family nearby, you can:
- Take a class. Want to learn something new? Knitting, pottery, painting – find a class in your area.
- Volunteer. Like animals? Volunteer at a shelter. Visit a food bank and help give out food to those in need. Read to children (or dogs). There are many, many ways to help others in need.
- Join a community group. If you’re interested in helping your community, join a local group. You can clean waterways, plant trees in a community garden, or work in a local kitchen. Help make your community a better place to live.
- Meetup.com – there are meetup groups everywhere in the country. Find one that interests you and join it.
Ways to Feel Less Lonely if You’re On Your Own
If you don’t want to be around others, or can’t for whatever reason, remind yourself that you are not alone. In the grand scheme of things, none of us are alone. Suggestions on what you can do include:
- Plan a retreat or trip. If you can afford it, go to an island or a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Plan to be away for the times that are especially hard for you. If you can’t go to an exotic place, take time over the holidays to look for things in your area. Is there a museum you’ve never visited? A historic site you’ve never seen? Make your holiday about discovering new things in your community. For me, researching a trip is usually as enjoyable as the actual trip, so planning a getaway over the holidays could help lift your spirits. You don’t even have to go anywhere.
- Keep your hands busy. Buy an adult coloring book and colored pencils. Start doing jigsaw puzzles. Paint. Take up knitting. There are many things you can do at home.
- Journal. Spend time getting your feelings out on paper. Write gratitude lists. Or rant. Get it out of you.
- Read or watch films. If you enjoy reading or watching movies, have a binge. I have an annual ritual where I’ll watch the first three Lord of the Rings and all the Harry Potter movies over the holidays. This year, I’ve started watching all the Marvel movies (which include the Avengers series). It’ll take months because there are thirty-something films and several series.
- Treat yourself. Make yourself a gourmet meal or get takeout from a nice restaurant you wouldn’t normally eat at. Do something decadent to treat yourself.
- Walk or hike. Get outdoors as much as you can. Even though it’s getting cold in many parts of the country, whatever sunlight you can get will help you feel better. If you can’t get outside for any reason, move your body indoors. Dance. Find workout videos on YouTube. Moving will help you feel better, so try to force yourself.
- Buy gifts for yourself. Forget other people – treat yourself. Buy yourself as many gifts as your budget allows. You don’t need to wrap them but wait to open the package or wear the item until Christmas (or the day you choose).
- Stay OFF social media. I try to stay away a few days before, during, and after the holiday. A surefire way to depress yourself is to scroll through other people’s made-up perfect lives.
- Avoid alcohol. As a former drinker, I know this is a hard one. But I’m sure you know alcohol is a depressant. If you absolutely must drink, make a pact with yourself to do it in a restaurant or bar, somewhere around other people. And make sure you can get a taxi or Uber home. Drinking alone is never a good thing.
How You Can Help
You might not be dealing with loneliness yourself, but you can help others with simple kindness, such as:
- Smile. This is the simplest thing you can do to lift someone’s spirits. Look them in the eye and smile at them. Say hello if you dare. Spread the joy you have to others you come in contact with.
- Compliment a stranger. See someone walking toward you in a beautiful coat? Love the lipstick someone’s wearing? Or the sound of their laughter? Let them know. You’ll both feel better after the exchange.
- Be kind to shop employees – All those store employees you see running around, especially during the holidays, are doing their best to help you. They have their own stress to deal with. Please take a moment to connect with them and share your appreciation for their help.
- Let someone go in front of you. Do you have a cart overflowing with food and see someone behind you with two things? Let them ahead of you. It’s a simple gesture that can go a long way.
- Leave food in a community fridge. Take food you won’t eat to a local fridge. If you’re in the supermarket, pick up a couple extra items for a neighbor you’ll never meet. Want to know what a community fridge is? Read this.
- Pay it forward. If you’re in line at a coffee shop, pay for the person’s coffee behind you. If you’re getting takeout at a drive-through, pay for the person’s meal in the car behind you.
- Ask your favorite restaurant to start a giving wall. A giving wall or receipt wall is where patrons can buy a meal and post the receipt on a wall. Anyone can redeem the receipt at the front register for the meal.
Even though these aren’t answers to loneliness, they can help make someone’s day better. And though it might seem like a small gesture, your act of kindness can go a long way in helping someone feel more connected and part of the community.
Happy Holidays. Here’s to January and new beginnings.