Learning how to overcome loneliness during the Christmas holiday season depends on the type of lonely you feel. There are actually three types of loneliness – and the cure for your feelings of being alone depends on several factors.
Usually I recommend self-help books for things like overcoming loneliness, but right now I think Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is better. It’s a wonderful book on getting lost, wandering, straying, and finding yourself again – and it’s perfect for people who feel lonely during the Christmas holiday season.
Feeling lonely most of the time is bad for your health – not just your mood. Research shows that loneliness is a greater risk for death than cigarette smoking. Being lonely can accelerate aging, increase blood pressure, and create anxiety. It doesn’t matter if you’re lonely this Christmas or all year ’round…being lonely is a droopy way to spend your life.
How to Stop Being Lonely at Christmas
These tips on how to stop feeling lonely this Christmas are inspired by an article I wrote for alive magazine several years ago. I welcome your thoughts at the end – I’m especially interested to learn how you’ll cope with feelings of loneliness at Christmas.
Learn about the three types of loneliness. Life coach Martha Beck describes three types of loneliness: 1) Separation loneliness, which results from being physically distant from family and friends; 2) Absolute loneliness, resulting from the belief that nobody understands – nor do they want to; and 3) Existential loneliness, “a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft.”
Ask yourself which type of lonely you feel this Christmas, and why. Write your thoughts in a notebook, or in the comments section below. Expressing yourself in writing is an excellent way to gain insight into your feelings. It can also help you figure out what steps to take to stop feeling lonely this Christmas.
Reach out and connect. Overcoming loneliness depends on the type of lonely you feel this Christmas. For instance, basic human contact – such as chatting with the barista in a coffee shop – can help with separation loneliness. Connecting with kindred spirits or close friends could ease absolute loneliness. Gardening, music, or any type of artistic connection may reduce existential loneliness.
If you don’t feel peaceful, read How to Find Christmas Peace.
Figure out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. People with introverted personality traits enjoy solitude and socializing with one or two others (crowds drain them). People with extroverted personality traits are energized by people – the more, the merrier! If you’re an introvert struggling with existential loneliness, going to a boisterous bar or kickboxing class may increase your discomfort. If you’re an extrovert wrestling with separation loneliness, gardening alone may not be effective. Overcoming loneliness at Christmas involves some introspection. Take this test for introverted personality traits, but not until you’ve read this whole article!
Consider getting a dog or cat. I think dogs are an excellent way to stop being lonely this Christmas – or any time of the year. I recently wrote Does Owning a Dog Make You Happy? – and I’m doing my MSW research on dog ownership and feelings of attachment. I have two dogs, and walking them three or four times a day helps me overcome loneliness and meet my neighbours. Of course, you need to be careful about adopting a dog at Christmas, and you have to be 100% sure you can take care of an animal before you rush out and rescue one.
Pick a project – it’ll distract you this Christmas. Sometimes the best tip for overcoming loneliness at Christmas is simply to distract yourself. Go through old photos and put them in albums, clean out your closet, clean our home from top to bottom (did you notice I wrote “our” instead of “your”? A Freudian slip – I really want you to come clean our house! That’ll stop you from being lonely this Christmas ).
Find your purpose. I recently read a post by Susan Biali called Helping You Find Your Life Purpose – it is an excellent article, and I hope you read and save it! You can overcome loneliness by finding purpose and meaning in your life. If you have a reason to be here, you won’t have time to be lonely this Christmas.
Try something new this Christmas. Find your nearest church, library, or community center. Look for a bulletin board. Read the posters about Christmas events, activities, plays, concerts, readings, gatherings, fundraisers, charity galas, community meetups, support groups, and neighborhood volunteer events. Don’t worry about going alone – it’s better if you participate in these things alone you’re more approachable and open to conversations with new people.
Just be lonely (a surprising way to overcome loneliness at Christmas). Not all uncomfortable feelings need to be overcome, expressed, or fixed. Sometimes you’re lonely or sad – and that’s a healthy part of being human. Simply sitting with negative emotions can be the healthiest thing to do when you feel lonely this Christmas. After awhile, your lonely feelings will go away.
If you’re lonely because you feel shy and awkward with people in social situations – perhaps you’re an introvert. Read books that will help with your social skills, such as How to Instantly Connect with Anyone: 96 All-New Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships.
I don’t know if these tips on overcoming loneliness will help you feel less lonely this Christmas. Perhaps what might help is reaching out and connecting with people. Start by leaving me a comment below. You don’t have to share your real name. Just tell me why you’re lonely this Christmas, and what you think would help you overcome loneliness.
If you’re lonely this Christmas because of a relationship breakup, read Surviving Your First Christmas After Divorce.
I welcome your thoughts on how to overcome loneliness at Christmas below.