So many people can feel a heightened sense of loneliness , anxiety, stress and despair during Christmas because they are not able to be with loved ones, the uncertainty of COVID and not having many people or family close by. Loneliness is a prevalent and global problem for adult populations, and various studies have linked it to multiple chronic conditions, including: heart disease, lung disease, hypertension, stroke, and metabolic disorders, such as obesity and metabolic disease. Loneliness is a major predictor of psychological problems, such as depression, psychological stress, and anxiety and is multi dimensional as it it can be emotional or social loneliness. Loneliness is linked to overall morbidity and mortality in adult populations. Yanguas et al (2018)
Christmas /Holiday loneliness is pervasive and effects people of all ages due to loneliness being triggered by multiple factors such as bereavement, ending of a relationship, moving to a new City, starting a new job or struggling with depression or social anxiety.
Christmas loneliness and blues can be combatted by planning in advance how you will spend your time weekly and ensuring the activities involves connecting with people and your values which will bolster your sense of enjoyment and achievement.
- If an Individual is struggling with loneliness during the Holidays this can be countered by going to locations where there are many people but you’re not expected to speak to people such as a Shopping Centre, Super Market, Gym or class where everyone is focused on an activity.
- Individuals encountering loneliness can overcome this by intentionally making new connections and friendships by joining a class based upon your core values or interests. It’s critical for you to align with your values and interests through taking consistent committed action in achieving this and ensuring its sustainable.
- Begin to open up to family and friends about how you truly feel can allow you to authentically connect and develop more robust relationships. We know that you can feel lonely even if having many friends, family or being an extrovert. Try opening up to family and friends either in person or via text, email or a phone , whatever you feel most comfortable with.
- Consider getting a pet or loaning one for the Christmas season as research suggests that pets can help with combatting loneliness and enhancing an Individuals mental health.
- Volunteering – this helps to ease loneliness as its a meaningful and personal way to connect with novel people with shared values which provides a sense of purpose alongside greater life satisfaction which has been lacking during COVID. Research suggests that Volunteering reduces depression and improves mental health whilst providing an opportunity to gain social support and experience a sense of community which helps to build resilience . Research suggests that volunteering for 2-3 hours weekly can reduce loneliness whilst also reducing symptoms of depression, enhancing overall health and reducing functional impairments. It has been discovered that feeling appreciated or needed as a volunteer appears to amplify the relationship between volunteering and psychosocial well-being. (Anderson et al 2014)
- Stay connected to family and friends daily by video calls if they’re in another country or in person and be intentional about being connected as this helps to reduce isolation and releases the chemical oxytocin which helps to maintain healthy relationships and boost your mood.
- Learning something new – maybe learning a new language, learning a new skill such as cooking or writing or something aligned with your values can help to counter depression and loneliness as you will be connecting with Individuals with common interests and there is likely to be opportunities to further connect and build upon your relationship. Self Improvement activities can be online or offline as we know that there are many opportunities to engage with online communities (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn Groups ,via zoom, Business communities, Societies ) and there has been a rise in these due to CoVID as many people are teleworking as a means to managing the spread of COVID. Moreover many organisations are transfering their services online in order to survive during this global pandemic.
- Get active -Exercise and participating in your hobbies is extremely effective in in combatting loneliness as it can evoke a state of ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi 1975) due to being absorbed in activities that are highly engaging. Research suggests that engaging in exercises increases productivity, elevates your mood through endorphins and serotonin being released whilst also activating the reward system through the release of dopamine which can motivate you to be more socially connected whilst reducing loneliness.
- Create a sense of ‘awe’ – Engaging in activities that provide a sense of awe such as connecting with nature, going for a walk ,listening to Music composers that inspire you or engaging in Mindfulness Meditations , prayer or gratitude. have been demonstrated to reduce feelings of loneliness. Research suggests that people who intentionally and frequently fill their lives with awe experiences feel less lonely, experience less body inflammation, less entitlement, and more pro-social behaviours, like humility and helping. (Bai et al 2017)
- Focus on what you have at Christmas including your achievements and successes during 2021 whilst fostering an attitiude of gratitude. Shifting your mindset will boost your mood and increase optimism.
It’s important to Start sooner than later as it ensures that you are able to overcome obstacles whilst developing some new social connections that you can continue to maintain and develop over the Christmas and new Year Period. Its essential to start imminently in order to overcome prevaricating which is likely to occur however I would suggest focussing on the opportunities and not obstacles whilst also visualizing success and how you will feel when making new connections and knowing that you won’t be feeling lonely during the Holidays.
What would you add to this?
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas 🎄
Rapha Therapy Services