I’ve written before on how loneliness is the hidden epidemic of our society with a study revealing that one in 10 people do not have anyone to call a close friend. This kind of isolation can be as threatening to our long term health and wellbeing . And there is no time like Christmas with all its associations of family and community, for making those who are lonely feel especially excluded and even more isolated.
Loneliness is the disease that can affect anyone – old, young, rich, poor, male, female, transgender. It has nothing to do with your worth as a person. You are as lovable and special as anyone. Most people experience a period of loneliness during their lifetime. This can come about from moving, starting a job or university in a new area (yes, even with co-workers and students you can still be lonely!), relationship breakdown, separation, illness, job loss or loss of mobility. The list is endless. The first thing to do whether it is Christmas or any other time of year, is to understand this can happen to anyone and if you look at the cause, you will most likely discover this has nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with circumstances beyond your control.
If you are unavoidably alone this Christmas, then treat yourself as you would your best friend. Even if you are on a budget, buy yourself something special to eat and drink. See this as your day that you can spend anyway you like. Sleep in, eat what and when you like, do what you like. See this as a new beginning where you start to create a new life which includes others. Here are a few tips to help you begin to do that.
1: Ask for Help. Especially if your loneliness is being further exacerbated by depression. This can be a chicken-and-egg situation – the depression may have caused you to withdraw or you may be unable to reach out due to your depression. Please see your doctor no matter whether you consider yourself clinically depressed or not. Just talking about your loneliness to another human being could start to make you feel better. Because of the stigma attached to loneliness, it can be very hard to admit to it but if it were not so common there would not be so many resources available for lonely people. Here are some tips from MIND on how to deal with loneliness.
2: Try Something New. The New Year beckons so consider trying something new. Join a group, start a class pursue things which inspire you. Look for ones that excite you or you’ve always wanted to do.
3: Volunteer. There have been numerous studies highlighting the benefit of Volunteering. A recent study even found it could prevent high blood pressure! Did you know that there are currently more than 730 organisations across the UK all committed to doing something about loneliness and all need support and volunteers? Who better than someone who understands the problem because they have lived it first hand? You’ll not only help yourself – you’ll help other lonely people in the process. The NHS recommend it for decreasing anxiety and for increased self esteem and confidence. It really is a magical act.
4: Ask not what a friend can do for you, but what you can do for them. Don’t fall into the trap of just trying to make connections to ease your loneliness. For one thing, these probably won’t be with people you truly have something in common with, and for another, when we focus on other people as solutions to our problems, we loose track of all we have to offer. Making a list of what you have to offer a potential friend has the effect of boosting self-love and self-esteem and changes our entire vibe so we are in better position to make that connection.
5: Reach Out – Even if you are not lonely! If you are lonely then reaching out can seem daunting but did you know you can practice? A simple, short conversation with a stranger can go a long way if you opt for something personal rather than just the weather. Just say what you feel – you could comment on something they are wearing or something that is going on around you. Tell them what you see has made your day in some way or the way you feel about something you’re both witnessing. This is something we can and could all be doing to foster a feeling of community and connection with others. If you are coming from a place of loneliness, then this helps you take small steps towards the bigger goal of forging friendships. There are many people who would adore being your friend.
Above all, if you are not lonely, please keep an eye out for people in your community who may be. Those few words can make all the difference as can keeping a watchful eye out during the colder weather.
If you are alone at Christmas understand it is just one day and it is a day founded on a belief around love – for all. That includes you. One day however does not define who you are – or how the rest of your life will be. See this as a celebration of all that you are, and all the people you still have yet to meet and connect to. Your people are waiting for you, and my Christmas wish for you is that this day is the first step towards you finding them.
I send you so much love
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