- Loneliness affects millions of people around the world, cutting across age groups.
- The holiday season can trigger feelings of loneliness.
- Ways to cope with loneliness include acknowledging it, practicing self-care, and remembering the feeling is fleeting.
Many different factors can cause loneliness; in particular, the holiday season can trigger feelings of loneliness.
At this time of year, there is a strong focus on connectedness. In supermarkets, department stores, on television, and on social media, we're bombarded with imagery of family and friends gathering together for food and fun times. It's easy to assume that everyone else is leading more exciting lives than we are and that no one else is lonely.
But we are not alone in feeling lonely. Loneliness affects millions of people around the world. In fact, it's perfectly normal to feel inadequate, left out, and lonely, especially during the holidays.
The Loneliness Epidemic
Researchers say that there is a loneliness epidemic. Loneliness is pervasive and rising steadily in the United States, particularly since the pandemic, with many people reporting they have fewer social ties and have lost touch with friends and family.
In a recent study, 36 percent of respondents reported serious loneliness, feeling lonely "frequently" or “almost all the time or all the time.” Another study shows that 58 percent of Americans often feel like no one in their life knows them well and their relationships with others are not meaningful.
Loneliness cuts across age groups. From baby boomers to Gen Z, younger and older people all report feelings of loneliness. It can occur at any time in life, although those going through a breakup, divorce, or the death of a loved one tend to struggle most with loneliness. Single parents commonly report feelings of mental and physical loneliness. Other predictors of loneliness include poor health, infrequent socializing, living alone, and being unmarried. For those people who don't have close family and friends or a reliable support system around them during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, their sense of loneliness often intensifies.
How to Stop Feeling Lonely
Long-term loneliness can affect emotional and physical health, leading to depression, anxiety, heart disease, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. Finding ways to cope with loneliness is vital. Here are just a few ways to deal with feeling lonely, especially around the holidays.
Acknowledge your loneliness: realizing how you feel and talking to friends and family or seeking a therapist can help build coping skills to combat loneliness. Be around people: visiting a park, a library, a museum, or a coffee shop and simply being around others can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Find a volunteer opportunity: Helping at a hospital, nursing home, or soup kitchen can take our minds off our problems and bring a sense of connection to others. Joining a group or club: finding others with similar interests is a great way to forge social ties with others online or in person.
Practice self-care: exercise, proper sleep, having a healthy diet, and even meditation all work to elevate mood and promote good emotional health. Switch off from the online world: social media can offer ways to interact and engage with others, but it can also contribute to greater feelings of loneliness, isolation, and inadequacy.
And finally, we should remember that these feelings of loneliness, albeit powerful, are fleeting. A sense of loneliness doesn't last forever, it is only temporary.