A lot of of us feel lonesome this time of year. Everyone is traveling and posting seemingly perfect pictures of their family Christmas celebrations — but this can lead many people to feel left out. So, if you’re lonely during the holidays, we’re here to help. Here, our experts share some simple ways to grow closer to others and find peace within yourself.
Meet our expert panel
- Kory Floyd, PhD, author of The Loneliness Cure, is a professor of communication and psychology at the University of Arizona. More at KoryFloyd.com.
- Sabine Schmid, PhD, is Director for Psychology Education/Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota.
- Jessie Everts, LMFT, author of Connecting with Loneliness: A Guided Journal, is a therapist who helps people feel more self-compassionate.
Know you’re not alone.
“We tend to believe that we somehow deserve to be lonely,” says expert Kory Floyd, PhD. “But it’s not a shortcoming — it’s a temporary ‘state’ we’re in because the holidays can be very difficult.” Indeed, our sense of isolation is often worsened by social media posts of holiday “perfection.” Remind yourself that these pictures are highly curated and don’t tell the whole story. Says Floyd, “Take a break from social media for 24 to 48 hours to help you refocus on your needs.”
ID what you need.
Loneliness is like hunger — a signal aimed at motivating us, says expert Sabine Schmid, PhD. “You can still be lonely in the presence of others, so it’s important to ask yourself what exactly you’re missing.” She says if you’ve lost a loved one, for example, the holidays can be hard no matter how many people you’re surrounded by, and making time for grieving may be the first step toward healing.
Find peace in kindness.
“One of my favorite meditations is loving-kindness,” says expert Jessie Everts. “Think about someone you care about and send them positive thoughts, then expand this circle by sending good wishes to all those in the world who are lonely, like, ‘May you find comfort this holiday.’” This fosters a sense of shared humanity, as your bighearted wishes are reflected back to you.
Take small steps to deepen bonds.
It may sound counterintuitive, but folks who feel lonely tend to avoid others, says Schmid. “People often tell me, ‘If I call a friend, it makes me feel like I have to reach out — and that makes me feel even more left out.’” Though it may be hard at first, Schmid encourages taking a baby step, even if it’s just saying hello to a neighbor. This simple shift can reduce your self-focus, boosting your confidence to take further action, like reaching out to loved ones.
Write affectionate cards.
One of the best ways to alleviate the heaviness of loneliness is by picking up the lightest of instruments: a pen. “Our research shows that simply writing someone a letter of affection or gratitude is a huge stress buster,” says Floyd. “There’s something very immediate and impactful about expressing these feelings in written words.” This could mean sending a heartfelt holiday card to a friend or faraway relative, or even writing a letter to a departed loved one to help you feel closer to them.
Give to others.
“Instead of comparing up to those who appear happier than you, try to help those who are more isolated,” says Everts. Be it by reaching out to an elderly neighbor or volunteering at a soup kitchen, taking this action offers a new perspective and fills you with a sense of gratitude, connecting you to others during the holidays and beyond.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.