5 ways to avoid feeling lonely at Christmas

5 ways to avoid feeling lonely at Christmas

 · 5 min read

While Christmas is an exciting time of year for many people, if we're experiencing loneliness, the festive season can be a difficult time for managing our mental health.

  • Loneliness is a significant issue in the UK, but it’s also true that you’re more likely to feel lonely if you expect to feel lonely.
  • Making Christmas about others and finding new experiences to try out can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • There are several resources available to help you if you’re feeling lonely during the festive period or at any time throughout the year.
  • Loneliness at Christmas: FAQs

    • What can you do on Christmas Day without family or loved ones near?

      When we reach later life, we are more likely to be expecting a Christmas without family or loved ones near. Helping others is great for our self-esteem and in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. Consider volunteering with a mental health charity, serving Christmas dinner with a local homelessness charity or lending a hand with an animal shelter on Christmas Day.

    • What is the best way to overcome loneliness at Christmas?

      Situational loneliness is commonly experienced at Christmas. We can find ourselves feeling lonely despite being surrounded by our in-laws or grown-up children and their spouses. Suggesting group activities that everyone can be involved in can help overcome the feeling of loneliness at Christmas while strengthening the connections you have.

    • What are some things I can do to deal with loneliness over the festive season?

      The festive period can feel lonely for many reasons. Preparing ahead for this time of year by getting involved with volunteer groups, reaching out to people we enjoy spending time with to make plans in advance and catching up with people by video call are some of the ways we can deal with loneliness at Christmas.

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    With potential coronavirus related restrictions looming over Christmas, the prospect of spending Christmas alone is a stark reality for many. However, we must recognise that many would be spending Christmas alone anyway, pandemic or not. Are you one of them?

    Addressing this time of year proactively can help us end loneliness for ourselves and others.

    Will I feel lonely if I spend Christmas alone?

    Loneliness isn't the same as not seeing people. Experts believe that loneliness is linked to the strength of the relationships we hold, not the number. As such, loneliness is different from social isolation. This is why we can be surrounded by people but still feel lonely or only have one or two friends and feel perfectly happy.

    Just because you're alone this Christmas, it doesn't mean you have to feel lonely. We've created this guide to help you avoid feeling lonely and enjoy this year's festivities.

    1. Examine your outlook on loneliness

    Between 2016 and 2017, the Office for National Statistics researched loneliness across the UK. They found that loneliness isn't restricted to older people or any gender. Young people reported the highest feelings of loneliness. More recent research shows that approximately 35% of UK residents felt lonelier due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

    The reality is that it's completely normal to feel lonely sometimes, and it's not something to be embarrassed about. In fact, the pandemic and subsequent changes to our day-to-day living have caused lots of people who live alone to experience higher levels of loneliness. However, spending Christmas alone, like many millions of other people in Britain expect to this year, doesn't have to equate to feeling lonely.

    Sometimes, we might feel lonely because we expect to. In 2014, researchers studied whether participants' expectations of loneliness correlated with their feelings of loneliness eight years later. Many participants who expected to feel lonely, did feel lonely. Researchers concluded that age-based stereotypes might contribute to feelings of loneliness.

    So, you don't have to feel lonely this Christmas just because you expect to. You might be perfectly happy with your own company or find ways to combat loneliness that gives others a merry Christmas! Either way, understanding how you feel now is a significant step towards finding a way to feel better.

    2. Video chat with friends and family

    You might not be able to see many people in person this Christmas, but video calling can be an excellent substitute. A study undertaken between 2012 and 2014 looked at the effects of video calling over a two-year period. Results showed that video call users were half as likely to show depressive symptoms when compared to those who only used a phone call to keep in touch with loved ones.

    The category of people who didn't use video chat included uses of instant messaging and social media, which suggests that video calls have a unique effect on us. It might not be as good as spending the day with someone else, but it can still create a sense of togetherness that other forms of contact don't.

    3. Make this Christmas about others

    Christmas traditions are lovely, but they can weigh heavy with expectation. If you're not ordinarily alone for Christmas, you might miss the usual festivities. Rather than feeling down and missing traditions, you could take the opportunity to create a different kind of Christmas.

    One option is to make this Christmas about creating new traditions that don't rely on in-person catch-ups. You might associate Christmas with full-house decorations and a giant feast, but Christmas can be celebrated in many different ways. Why not do something different? Get out and hand-deliver Christmas cards to lonely people in your community, or join a group to sing carols on people's doorsteps.

    Making Christmas about other people is a great way to redirect your attention away from your own feelings of loneliness and make new connections that will stop you from feeling lonely too. For example, charities like the Samaritans and Silver Line need volunteers for their helplines over the Christmas period. Many other charities also set up online fundraisers and appeals for supplies, meaning you don't have to be in contact with others if you'd like to volunteer this Christmas.

    Buying gifts from small businesses and independent craft makers is another way to positively contribute to a local seller's income and hopefully come away with a beautiful gift you can brighten someone's Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with.

    4. Say yes to new things

    It's easy to stay in our comfort zones, especially during winter, when it's cold and dark outside. But, spending more time on our own is an excellent opportunity to try new things. For example, you might have spotted a neighbour going on regular walks. If it's safe to do so, you could suggest going together or strike up a distanced chat about the best places to go. Or, you might have seen an article recommending a new book or TV series. Now's the time to give it a try!

    Having more time to yourself also presents the opportunity for new hobbies. Taking up new hobbies provides a chance to meet new people. Consider your interests and how you'd like to expand your skills or knowledge into a new area.

    5. Talk to someone about how you feel

    Feeling lonely can make you feel a little helpless. If you can't see a quick way to change your situation, you might wonder how talking to someone will help. Often, getting another perspective can help you see your situation differently and find new solutions. Age UK has published a comprehensive guide on what to do if you feel lonely, including how to get help and make new connections. They say:

    "Ignoring [a worry about your mental wellbeing] doesn't make it go away, it's likely to only make it worse in the long-term. Maybe now is the time to take that first step to helping yourself feel better."

    So, if you're feeling down or lonely, don't have to suffer in silence. Your GP can signpost you to a range of brilliant resources. Even talking to a friend or family member is a step in the right direction.

    Olivia Barnes-Brett
    Olivia Barnes-Brett
    Olivia joined Age Group in 2020 and specialises in writing about lifestyle topics and hobbies, as well as covering issues like loneliness and social isolation. Olivia speaks three languages and is also involved in teaching and creative fiction writing.
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