Loneliness is a feeling everyone experiences from time to time, and, in recent years, it has been deemed a serious health concern. More than 60% of adults in the United States regularly struggle with loneliness, with the loneliest age group being young adults ages 18-22, according to Discovery Therapy.
The holiday season can be a time of healing for many, since they have a chance to spend time with friends and family. However, not everyone has a support system to fall back on.
“The holidays are full of scenes of people spending happy times with family and friends, leading some to feel like they are the only ones without loved ones in their lives during this time,” clinical psychologist Adam L. Fried told Real Simple.
What causes seasonal loneliness?
Many factors can contribute to heightened feelings of loneliness during the holidays. Typically, those who live alone, the elderly and individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one are more susceptible to experiencing loneliness compared to others. A 2020 survey found that 70% of Americans felt lonely entering the winter holiday season.
Recognizing the factors in your life that could impact your sense of loneliness is crucial to proactively safeguarding your mental health, according to research.
According to WebMD, common sources of holiday loneliness include:
- Unmet expectations.
- Feelings of loss.
- Social pressure.
- Financial stress.
- Seasonal affective disorder.
- Lack of social connections.
How to prevent loneliness
If you find yourself grappling with feelings of loneliness during this holiday season, consider these suggestions to combat those negative emotions:
Make an effort to reach out to friends and family through phone calls, video chats or text messages. Sharing your feelings with loved ones enables them to provide emotional support.
“If you feel isolated, make it a priority to work on your relationships with others. ... Engaging in fun or exciting activities will also distract you from negative thoughts and allow you to focus on building a supportive network,” Mental Health First Aid reported.
Volunteering your time to help others during the holidays will allow you to meet others and make connections. It can be a fulfilling way to bond with your community and combat loneliness.
“As long as we care about others in the communities we live in, we can free ourselves from the grip of isolation and loneliness. Volunteering helps us grow a sense of community, a sense of place — of belonging. It gives us the opportunity to create little sanctuaries of belonging with each other,” per Psychology Today.
Start new holiday traditions that are meaningful to you. This process can include activities like cooking a special meal, watching holiday movies or engaging in a favorite hobby. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad told The New York Times that drawing on your creative side with painting or crafting can help combat loneliness or even reap the benefits of other’s creative talents:
“If creativity does not come naturally to you, Holt-Lunstad noted, you can still reap the benefits by spending time around others who are doing creative things. For example, she said, you could go to a holiday concert or performance. That has the added reward of getting you out of the house and putting you in the company of others. Social isolation and loneliness are not synonymous but are linked.”
Sometimes, solitude can be a time for self-reflection and personal growth. Use that time to engage in activities you enjoy and strengthen your relationship with yourself. If being alone is challenging for you, Healthline recommends these strategies to minimize feelings of loneliness and make your time in solitude more enjoyable:
- Nature therapy.
- Self-care activities.
If feelings of loneliness persist and significantly affect your well-being, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor. They can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific situation.