Merry vs. Melancholy: Loneliness & The Holiday Season

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December 20, 2016
Tags: advice | tips

For many people this time of year can be especially difficult. Sometimes all the merriment that surrounds the closing of another year can just be too much to handle. Rather than be festive, the dark days of December can place a generally happy person into a full-blown funk.

“Social isolation,” aka loneliness, is one of the biggest predictors of depression, and people who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at holiday time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse. “At any given time, roughly 20% of individuals—that would be 60 million people in the U.S. alone—feel sufficiently isolated for it to be a major source of unhappiness in their lives,” write John John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick in their book, “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.”

If misery loves company (and it sure seems to have its share of friends during this time of year) then how can someone address the issue? Here are tips to beat the holiday blues according to the

Lower Expectations: No party invites? No significant other? Who cares? What about hosting a movie marathon with a couple friends? When it comes to holiday plans, or anything else for that matter, you can write your own script.

Warm Up: There’s research to suggest that the simple act of taking a warm bath or having a cup of hot coffee might help to counteract feelings of loneliness. “It seems as if the body can be fooled into feeling welcomed by applying a little warmth in the right places,” write researchers Hans IJzerman and Justin Saddlemyer in The New York Times. “And the effect is reciprocal: Studies…have found that adults and young children are more social after they’ve touched something warm.”

Reach Out: If you’d really like to spend the days around Christmas with others, it’s not too late to do something about it. Take a risk. Make a few phone calls. Find a local organization looking for volunteers . You might be surprised to find that there are other people out there looking for some connection just as much as you are.

Loneliness is something we all experience from time to time. But no matter where or when the holiday blues strikes, remember that you’re not alone. Try to keep realistic expectations, take care of yourself, and make a little effort to connect with others in the same boat.

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