Loneliness affects millions of people around the world particularly during the holiday
season. Loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and actual experiences of it. This feeling can affect those in marriages, relationships, larger or small families and even people who are surrounded by others frequently. In a time when social media is booming, it can feel especially lonely comparing one’s life and circumstances to those seen on the media. During the holiday season there is a strong focus on connectedness and family cohesion which as we know is not everybody's reality! Social media, television, supermarkets and even department stores bombard the public with imagery of friends and family gathering for the holidays. It is important during this time to cope effectively with feelings of loneliness and know that you too can enjoy the holiday season.
There are many ways to cope with feelings of loneliness including practicing self care,
maintaining proper sleep, maintaining meaningful social interactions and even daily meditation. Feelings of loneliness are fleeting, and with this we must remember that these feelings too shall pass!
Self care can be especially tough during the holidays but can be especially rewarding and effective against fighting feelings of loneliness. Some ways and ideas to practice self care include keeping up with proper hygiene, reading a book or an article (disconnecting from the world of digital media), spending quality time with loved ones, cooking your favorite meal or even starting the day with your favorite podcast! Identifying interests and values is also a key form of self care. Journaling is a great form of self care and can be a space to reflect on values, goals, interests and barriers. It is not common to feel alone even while surrounded by people and there is a common misconception that surrounding yourself with people will take away feelings of loneliness. More often, a feeling of loneliness stems from feeling a general “disconnect” to those around us, maybe they don't share the same values or interests so it is difficult to feel engaged. Surrounding yourself with people who share similar interests and values will help to boost motivation and connectedness to society. Additionally, this can build confidence and make socializing in general seem less daunting. It is commonly said that the holiday season is meant for giving, so always remember to give back to YOU!
Sleep and meditation can be used hand in hand when dealing with feelings of loneliness during the holiday season. When feeling lonely it can be difficult to wind down these thoughts and actually obtain proper sleep. Without proper sleep there is a general decrease in mood, motivation and overall quality of life. Studies also show that sleep deprivation leads to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Using meditation techniques to obtain proper sleep and decrease negative feelings is key! Common examples of meditation include deep/controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation which focus on bringing awareness to the physical body, which may help disconnect us from negative thoughts/feelings including loneliness. Neuroscientists have confirmed that certain music induces a feeling of relaxation by stimulating brain waves through calming tones. Using clinically-backed relaxation music is a great tool for aiding sleep, meditation or relaxation in general. Try out Marconi Union’s “Weightless” which this year has been named the world's most calming song by neuroscientists!
Maintaining meaningful social interactions can directly impact feelings of loneliness especially during the holiday season. As we know the holiday season is usually known as a time to connect with family and loved ones. What about those of us who do not have family nearby or in our lives? Remaining open to social interactions and avoiding isolation is key. Loneliness can quickly become debilitating and can become a barrier to stepping out and engaging in social interaction. The more time spent alone or in isolation, the more difficult it can become to interact with others. Incorporating a structure or routine can be helpful in pushing barriers and feeling productive and motivated daily. Think about your existing social relationships, friends, coworkers, neighbors etc. Devoting time to spend engaging and being social with those around you is so important! Poor social interaction is assumed to be one of the strongest predictors of loneliness.
Lastly, the holiday season is about JOY, with the chaos and busy schedules during this
time try to find ways to schedule joy within your life. Maybe it is weekly nature walks, daily
affirmations or mornings at your favorite coffee shop, find the time to schedule your own joy
especially if you can relate to feelings of loneliness this holiday season!
Jasmine Cruz, LPC