James Taylor famously sang, “I don’t want to be lonely tonight.” It’s a sentiment felt by millions of people. In fact, the former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, wrote a book called “Together” in which he outlines the epidemic of loneliness here and around the world. And during this holiday season, loneliness and loss may be front and center in your life.
If you feel lonely, try to identify the reason. Is it due to the death of a loved one, a recent separation or divorce, a military deployment, distance from family, singleness, loss of job or support group? The reason may not be immediately changeable, but it helps to know the source in case there are steps you could take to reduce the loneliness. For example, you might attend a Divorce Care group if recently divorced. This would connect you with others going through the same process and provide support.
Regardless of the cause for your loneliness, good coping skills will be needed to avoid sinking into depression or sadness. Here are 10 suggestions to help fight loneliness:
- Stay engaged in life.
Don’t isolate yourself. Plan to attend activities that don’t require a partner—a sing-along at church, a cooking demonstration, a theatre production, or a book signing.
- Exercise self-care.
Exercise and go outdoors to get into the sunshine. Sunshine is a mood booster. Eat well. Treat yourself to a massage or a good book. Take up a hobby.
- Get a pet.
Pets make great companions if you can afford them and can work them in to your lifestyle. They are known to reduce stress for both young and old.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude.
Studies show that focusing on your blessings improves your mood. Gratitude is one way to feel better and stay positive. Try three gratitude statements each morning and watch your mood improve.
- Lose the self-pity.
There is always someone with a story more desperate than yours. Life is hard. Loss happens. But God’s promise is to walk us through hardship, not give us a life without heartache.
- Help others.
Serve the homeless, take cookies to the elderly, or organize an event for a nursing home. Because our extended family doesn’t live in the area, we typically invite international university students who can’t go home for holiday dinners over to our house. Volunteering and service are two major ways to combat loneliness
- Rethink your expectations.
With all the hype around the holidays, it is easy to think everyone is gathering and having the time of their life. Assess your situation, make realistic expectations and actively work at them. No one has a perfect holiday.
- Evaluate your friendships.
Have you spent time all year cultivating friends? If not, this may be one reason you are feeling lonely. Decide to make changes in the coming year to build relationships. Right now, invite someone for coffee.
- Do not use alcohol, shopping, eating or other vices to cope with lonely feelings.
When you feel down, write a list of behaviors that are healthy. Your list could include listening to upbeat music, calling a friend, writing in a journal, or reading the Bible. The point is to have a ready list of coping strategies when lonely feelings hit.
- Don’t give in to hopelessness.
Get out your Bible, read the promises of God, pray and worship. God never leaves you and offers His spirit to comfort you. There is always reason for hope when you are a Christ follower. But sometimes we have to read about that hope to renew our mind.