For many of us, the Christmas festivities bring with it a range of difficult feelings. It can remind us of the people that we have lost, and it can bring into sharp relief the difference between the ideal families depicted on television and our own complex and less than ideal reality. More than at any other time of the year, Christmas can be a time of great sadness and loneliness. Feelings of loneliness can be as acute when you are in a room surrounded by people, as it is when you are in a room on your own. And it isn’t just something experienced by the few: 1 in 10 of us do not have a close friend and 1 in 5 of us feel unloved. It can affect us at any age whether we are young or old.
Feeling lonely is linked to poor physical and mental health, and as physical pain alerts us to the potential of tissue damage, mental pain in the form of loneliness warns us of potential threats to our wellbeing. It tells us that we need to be doing something to help us feel more connected to our fellow man. There are no easy solutions to alleviating loneliness. Whatever you do, it is going to take effort and it is going to require you to get out of your comfort zone. Here are our WorkGuru tips on alleviating loneliness:
Recognise the feelings for what they are. Recognise the feelings that you are experiencing as loneliness and recognise those feelings are a signal that you should be doing something about it. It is important to recognise that loneliness leads to us feeling suspicious of people and can result in us becoming even more socially withdrawn. Recognise that these are symptoms of your loneliness and resolve to do something about it.
Reach out to the people who are there. Make contact with the family, friends and colleagues that you have got. Suggest meeting up for a coffee or a night out. Think of things that they enjoy doing and suggest that you do them together. Arrange to cook them a meal or help them with their shopping.
Embrace every opportunity. As you go about your day make the most out of every social opportunity you have got. Smile to people as you walk down the street, make small talk with people in the shops, offer to make a drink for your colleagues, say thank you and smile if someone opens a door for you. Remember, loneliness can lead to us behaving in more defensive ways and becoming more suspicious of people. Smile and be open to interacting with the people around you.
Give to others. Volunteering and involving yourself in your local community is an excellent way to build up your social networks and decrease feelings of loneliness. When we spend a lot of time on our own we can become very inward looking. Start looking around you, and look at things that you can do to support your community.
Take a risk. Take a deep breath, be brave and take a risk. The risk to your physical and mental health of being lonely far out weighs any temporary feelings of embarrassment if your offers of friendship are rejected.
Remember; if you are worried about your mental health speak to your GP or a mental health professional. In the UK the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day. You can phone them on 116 123.1 Person recommends this post