Any number of things can make you feel more lonely than usual over the holidays: memories of a lost loved one, a relationship that’s recently ended, strained relationships with family and friends, or just the media’s unrealistic portrayals of holiday perfection, to name a few. If you’re feeling isolated and disconnected over the holidays, there are basically 2 approaches you can take: (1) You can accept the idea of spending time with yourself and try to figure out how to make that not only bearable but maybe even fun. (2) You can try to get out and about with people so that you don’t feel so isolated.
This isn’t a “one is right and one is wrong” scenario; depending on factors like your previous history with handling lonely feelings and your personal preferences, you might have a great holiday either way. If you know that you’re the kind of person who will start beating yourself up with self-hating thoughts when you spend too much time alone, then you should find ways to connect with others. But if you don’t have a history of such thoughts and in fact can sometimes thrive when on your own, then there’s nothing wrong with just pursuing a you-centered holiday. Either way, there’s plenty you can do to take care of yourself this holiday season.
If you want to spend more time with others:
This is one of the best strategies you can use if you want to spend more time with other people over the holidays. For one thing, no matter where you can live you can be almost certain you can find somewhere to volunteer during the holidays. For another, people who work with volunteer organizations generally love it when new people show up to help, so fellow volunteers will be happy to see you and almost certainly want to chat. And most importantly, even if you don’t get any new friends out of the experience, you’ll have helped someone, which is both good for them and a mood booster for you.
Join a group that’s centered around a particular activity or interest.
No one wants to just walk up to a stranger at a bar or a coffee shop and say, “Hi, I see you’re alone too, should we be friends?” But if you join a group that’s centered around a particular activity or interest, then you automatically have something to talk about straightaway. For instance, there might be local groups that form around sports somewhere near you. Even things like tv shows, video games, and popular podcasts often have local fan groups that meet every couple of weeks. If you follow a certain religion, or even if you’re interested in looking into one, visit a local place of worship. Within any religion, some places of worship tend to have more friendly and welcoming people than others, so if you don’t make connections with anyone on your first try, try a second or third location. Visit meetup.com, which allows you to search for local hangouts in a wide variety of categories, from exercise to cooking to dancing to language.
Don’t be ashamed to subtly fish for an invitation.
Remember that unless someone knows for certain that you don’t have plans for the holidays, they probably won’t invite you their holiday celebration because they’ll assume you’re spending time somewhere else. So if there’s someone you think would be receptive to having you over for a holiday meal or get-together, like a co-worker you get along with, for instance, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with something like, “Have any holiday plans?” They’ll answer and then ask you the same question, most likely, and if you answer with, “Nope, no particular plans…”, then they might just invite you over! Dr. Guy Winch offers a helpful reminder:
“Keep in mind studies clearly show that loneliness makes us underestimate the extent to which those around us care about us as we are likely to view our friends and friendships more negatively than we should. Even if we’re skeptical about it, we should assume the person who invites us is happy to have us (otherwise they would not have extended the invitation in the first place).”
If you’d rather do your own thing:
Take a trip.
The extent of the trip is entirely up to your preferences and your finances. If you can afford it, go all out! Treat yourself to a destination vacation you’ve been meaning to take! Some people think doing vacations solo sounds too depressing, but lots of people do it and have a fabulous time. You get to set the itinerary – get up when you like, go to bed when you like, pick out only the things you want to do, eat wherever looks good to you! It’s hard to feel lonely and depressed when you’re having exciting new experiences. Even if you can’t afford a fancy vacation, though, just plan a day trip to somewhere near you. Make a day of that museum you’ve been meaning to check out, that street vendor that always smells amazing, and the Nutcracker performance you found a Groupon for. Planning events you’re interested in makes alone time feel like you’re pampering yourself.
Decorate and cook (or…order holiday food from a nearby restaurant)!
Lots of people fall into the trap of thinking, “There’s no point in decorating or cooking a fancy meal for just myself.” Not true at all! That sends the message to yourself that you’re not worth fun, nice traditions. You absolutely are, and avoiding festivity is only going to make you feel more depressed and alone. Doing things for yourself sends your brain and emotions the message that you’re worth it.
Look for fun holiday beverage recipes that are alternatives to alcohol.
Alcohol isn’t a stimulant; it’s a depressant. Even if you think you normally handle drinking alone pretty well and are able to stop yourself after one or two, why go down that road? You don’t want to end up depressed just because you drank too much and messed with your body’s natural chemistry. HealthCentral recommends these fun recipes for caramel apple cider or gingerbread coffee instead.
Remember, alone doesn’t have to equal lonely over the holidays, and alone time doesn’t even have to stay alone time over the holidays if you don’t want it to. The holidays are a time for giving, but they’re also a time for making sure you’re taking care of yourself.
Want to talk more about coping with holiday loneliness or struggling with loneliness year-round? You can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult .