It might be difficult to admit you’re lonely, especially when the holiday season is filled with images of people gathered together. Your feelings of isolation are certainly valid. However, keep in mind that you can take specific action to change these emotions for the better.
Why Do We Get Lonely?
The Health Resources & Services Administration reported in 2019 that there’s a “loneliness epidemic” in the United States: “Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated. The lack of connection can have life threatening consequences.”
Risk factors for premature mortality include “living alone, being unmarried (single, divorced, widowed), no participation in social groups, fewer friends, strained relationships, retirement, and physical impairments.” Conversely, all these factors contribute to social isolation and loneliness.
The nonprofit group Mind, based in the United Kingdom, outlines the reasons why people say they’re lonely:
- “I feel detached because there’s no one I talk to daily.”
- “I’m choosing to live sober, so none of the people I used to know are in my life now.”
- “My mental health condition isolates me, and makes it more challenging to connect with other people.”
- “I believe no one understands me or my emotions.”
- “I enjoy particular hobbies and activities, but there’s no one in my area who shares my interests.”
- “Nothing is familiar because I live in a new place or have a different job.”
Loneliness During the Holidays
The challenges to overcome loneliness during the holiday season might be particularly acute, states psychologist Guy Winch in an article for Psychology Today. He says this is especially true if your current feelings are more defeatist or pessimistic. “It’s natural for those who suffer loneliness to become self-protective and make efforts to avoid any situations that could expose them to further rejection,” he notes. “Therefore, lonely people are likely to be reluctant to reach out and initiate contact with friends and acquaintances, have nowhere to go when the holidays come around, and then feel even more desperate and alone.”
In a word, ouch. What a hard knock to examine your behavior and come to the conclusion that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of what you don’t want. So it’s up to you to make some adjustments for a more favorable outcome.
The Difficulty of the 2020 Holiday Season
In 2020, some people suffered loneliness more than ever before because of the coronavirus pandemic and its necessary quarantines and social distancing. Others might have experienced it for the first time and discovered they didn’t have the coping skills to handle it healthfully.
The 2020 holiday season might include a mix of COVID-19 precautions and limitations, as well what Winch describes as an individual’s “subjective feelings of deep emotional or social disconnection—or both. Even people in certain gatherings can still feel distant, unengaged, misunderstood, or unseen.”
Use the above statements from Mind to examine exactly why you’re lonely to help make some initial adjustments to enjoy the holidays as best you can.
Managing Loneliness During the Holidays
Spending quality time alone is actually a good thing. Understanding how to enjoy your own company and individual pursuits is essential for your overall wellness. But if you’re really down and need company, you might have to make the first move. Have no fear! Even people with more introverted personalities can do this on their terms.
Winch suggests reaching out to family members, distant family members, and friends to ask what they’re doing for the holidays. “Such questions usually draw a response and then a similar question from the other person—and consequently, an invitation, once they hear, ‘I don’t have any set plans yet.'” Conversely, he says, extend an invitation to these people for a specific event, such as posting on Facebook “Message me if you want to go caroling tomorrow evening!”
Additionally, Winch says, if you do have people close to you but still feel detached or emotionally isolated, “Choose one person with whom you might get closer over the holidays and make an effort to spend time with them, talk with them, or do activities together.” Try going over old photographs or visit places that help rekindle a sense of shared history.
Mind offers these ideas:
- Make new connections by joining a club or group specific to your interests. Even if you don’t talk a lot during the events, you have an opportunity to share an activity with others who enjoy the same things you do.
- Volunteer. Why is giving back so important? Because it adds to your sense of purpose and helps you address the needs of others, particularly during the holidays. You’ll likely meet a variety of people who, if they don’t become part of your circle, at least help you socialize and create new opportunities.
- Try a friend outing service. We admit this suggestion is a little out there, but at some point, you might have to think differently. If you don’t want to go to a ball game or for a bike ride alone, there are people who will join you for a small fee. This isn’t a dating service, but a chance to break the ice on aspects of socialization.
If a sober holiday is important to you, create a celebration for some of your fellow support group members. It doesn’t have to be a big shindig: maybe touch football in the park with a potluck afterward, coffee and snacks at your house with a “stop by when you can” schedule, or a holiday movie event. Chances are, there are many people who feel exactly the way you do, and will appreciate being included.
Twin Lakes Can Help
Alumni of Twin Lakes Recovery Center might also join our weekly aftercare programs in Athens, Gainesville, and Monroe to connect with other individuals who understand your goals. Make sure to check out our Facebook page, too, for additional ideas.