Amid the upcoming holidays, but feeling lonely?
Loneliness can strike anyone at any time, and the health restrictions and isolation of the pandemic have further exacerbated the challenge. And now as we head into the holiday season, you may find a sense of loneliness creeping in as you reflect on the turmoil of the past year, feel a sense of loss being disconnected from colleagues as you work from home, or grieve for lost loved ones that won’t be joining you at festive celebrations.
Loneliness is different than isolation or solitude.
You may be alone, relish your solitude, and not feel lonely. Or you may be married, with a house full of children, yet still feel lonely. “Loneliness is a subjective feeling where the connections we need are greater than the connections we have. In the gap, we experience loneliness. It’s distinct from the objective state of isolation, which is determined by the number of people around you,” says Dr. Vivek Murthy, United States Surgeon General.
During periods of loneliness, it’s normal to experience anxiety, depression, and poor sleep quality. As a result, many people turn to unhealthy habits such as drugs, alcohol, or overeating as coping mechanisms.
8 Ways To Combat Loneliness
1. Hug a loved one
A hug a day can help keep the doctor away! Hugging is good for your health, helping ease stress and anxiety by creating a sense of connection through physical touch, and releasing oxytocin, the ‘love hormone.’ Studies have shown that hugging for 20 seconds or more has the most impact. Take a moment to hug your partner, hug your child, hug a friend, hug your pet.
2. Find your ‘tribe’
Spending time with like-minded individuals and people who enjoy shared experiences can help create a strong social connection to abate loneliness. If you are a runner, find a running group. Love the solitude of reading? Join a book club or attend an author reading. Even if it’s online, it can help you engage with others and create a connection.
3. Take a cooking class
Cooking classes are fun and interactive – and no previous cooking skills are necessary! If you’re shy, introverted, or find it challenging to meet new people, you’ll discover conversations flow easily over food preparation. And you’ll have a delicious meal to enjoy, too.
4. Adopt a pet
Having a pet – especially a dog or cat – can help reduce stress and anxiety, and ease loneliness by providing companionship. Have trouble meeting people? Some pet owners say they find socializing easier when they have a pet in tow. And walking the dog regularly has the added benefit of getting a little extra exercise, too.
Not sure you’re ready for the commitment of owning a pet? Volunteer at a local pet shelter to test your compatibility with having a pet of your own.
Find an organization or charity that has meaning for you and volunteer. Volunteering promotes a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can help ease your sense of isolation and lack of engagement that can come with loneliness.
6. Dance it out
Dancing can help elevate your mood, and the shared experience of joining a dance class provides exercise and camaraderie. If you’re not up to dancing in public, crank up your favourite upbeat music and dance it out at home to increase endorphins. Dance like no one is watching!
7. Join a choir
Warm up those vocal cords and belt out a tune! A study from the University of California revealed that singing in a community choir reduced loneliness and increased interest in life. If you’re not ready to sing in a group, many choir organizers have adapted to the health restrictions during Covid by creating virtual choirs.
8. Reach out
Call a friend. Plan a Zoom call with a group of friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out and admit you’re feeling lonely.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and wish to speak with someone about your emotional and mental wellness, request a conversation with our Registered Psychologist, Shelley Hanna.