If you’re spending Christmas away from your loved ones this year, that can feel lonely.
Whether you couldn’t get home this year or your relationship with your family is, well, complicated, being alone at this time can bring up all sorts of difficult feelings.
Here are 3 things you can do if you're dealing with loneliness at Christmas.
1. Connect in a Way That Brings You Closer
Positive Psychologist Dr Barbara Fredrickson found that moments of connection happen when we interact in real-time over a shared positive emotion.
So the good news is that even if you can’t be together in person, you can still feel close through video call. But rather than simply calling, go a step further and be intentional about making it a positive, connecting experience.
For example, posting each other gifts and opening them over Zoom means you can share in mutual feelings of kindness and gratitude.
Or host a virtual quiz night or play a game, where the laughter and joyfulness are bound to make the distance feel shorter and dealing with loneliness at Christmas easier.
2. Change Perspective
It’s natural to feel disappointed that the holidays haven’t met your expectations. Though you can’t always change the situation, you can change your perspective.
Identifying what you’re grateful for in this situation that we might otherwise not have had can help you to feel more positive.
Here’s an example of how I’m doing this this festive season:
I’m personally unable to get home to South Africa this Christmas due to issues getting my baby daughter’s passport in time, and I’m especially disappointed about that because I was looking forward to finally introducing her to the family.
I could focus on how sad it is that we don’t live closer and how frustrated I am with government services and the endless pandemic. But in my experience, that rarely makes me feel better. I prefer to gently acknowledge those feelings, and then ask myself: "What good might also be present this situation?"
For one, I’m really grateful to have my baby daughter in the first place, and I can certainly see the upside in only travelling when she’s a little older. I’m thankful technology exists so that I can connect with my loved ones in other ways. And of course, more than ever in these times, I don't take for granted my loved ones’ health.
What else? Not going away also means I can use the extra time to focus on our imminent house move without feeling rushed, and easing into taking on some coaching clients again might be a smoother transition.
This is what shifting perspective is about — zooming out to see the bigger picture, taking notice of what good there might be alongside whatever challenges we encounter.
What can you find to be grateful in your situation?
3. Turn Your Focus Outwards
If dealing with loneliness at Christmas has the seconds ticking by at an excruciatingly slow pace, why not fill the time another way?
Turn your focus outside of yourself by volunteering or doing acts of kindness.
Maybe someone else is dealing with loneliness this Christmas, and you can ease that for them by keeping them company.
Perhaps your local food bank or charity is looking for Christmas volunteers.
Not only can this be a wonderful gift to someone else this Christmas, but it’s also one of the best mood boosters. In fact, a review of wellbeing interventions found that doing an act of kindness had a bigger positive impact than any other intervention tested!
How might you give back this festive season?