Simple Steps for Managing Holiday Loneliness by C. Pearson

Simple Steps for Managing Holiday Loneliness by C. Pearson

(Link): Simple Steps for Managing Holiday Loneliness – NY Times, paywall


by C. Pearson

…Loneliness is subjective. During the holidays, you can be surrounded by friends and family and feel totally isolated. Alternatively, you can be alone and feel completely at peace.

…When loneliness hits, it is possible to help yourself through it and lighten the feeling, experts say. These five strategies can help.

Do something for others

Volunteering is a proven buffer against stress and depressive symptoms and can be particularly effective in lessening feelings of isolation. That is because loneliness tends to draw people’s attention inward, while giving back turns it outward, Dr. Floyd said.

…Informal gestures help ease feelings of isolation, as well. Dr. Holt-Lunstad led research showing that performing small acts of kindness toward neighbors — like dropping off groceries, watering their plants or simply chatting for a bit — can help people feel less solitary.

Tap into your creativity

[Studies have shown that people feel less lonely if they are engaging in a creative activity, even if they are doing the activity alone]

…Creative expression can take many forms, Dr. Holt-Lunstad said. You might paint or craft. Perhaps you write or play an instrument. Maybe you finally take on that D.I.Y. project in your home.

If creativity does not come naturally to you, Dr. 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.

Challenge your internal narratives

The fantasy of endless holiday magic and deep, meaningful reunions with loved ones can set anyone up for feelings of disappointment.

Dr. Floyd suggested “reframing,” a tactic he uses often in his own life. It is all about challenging your self-talk to shift your perspective by asking yourself: What is an unhealthy narrative running through my head right now, and how could I change it? For instance, if you are having a small family get-together, concentrate on appreciating the people who are attending rather than focusing on those who are not …

…Gratitude can also serve as a powerful antidote to loneliness, Dr. Holt-Lunstad said, because it helps you focus your thoughts on what you have rather than on what you are lacking. Write down what you are grateful for, or tell someone you appreciate them, which has the added bonus of fostering connection.

See alone time as an opportunity

If you’re spending more time alone than you’d like, make an effort to do something with that time that feels indulgent, Dr. Floyd said. Take a walk in the moonlight. Get lost in a book. Bake your favorite dessert and eat it right away.

“Turn the experience of aloneness into something positive,” Dr. Floyd said. …

Make peace with your loneliness

One of the hard parts about feeling lonely around the holidays is the sense that you’re the only one in that position. All of the experts interviewed for this story said it can be helpful to remind yourself that it’s simply not true. And while strategies like reframing and cultivating gratitude can help mitigate loneliness and sorrow, it is also important not to deny your feelings. …


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