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Lonely During the Holidays? How to Beat the Blues

If you feel lonely during the holiday season, you are in good company.

Key points

  • During the Christmas season, two commonly reported stressors are loneliness and being without a family.
  • Christmas is often described as depressing, lonely, and stressful.
  • The holiday season often brings feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and helplessness.
  • Targeted activities can improve your mood to help you beat the holiday blues.

Life is not a Hallmark card, or a Hallmark movie for that matter, considering the usually predictable plots. The predictability of Hallmark movies is why some people like watching them, but for others, not so much. Being alone during the holidays can lead to devastating loneliness and despair. Each of us should set aside the time to reach out to anyone and everyone who might find themselves feeling alone.

If you are the one who feels like you are on your own during the holidays, start by recognizing that you are not alone, and that, thankfully, there are many resources and avenues of support. You might be wondering, especially if you seem to feel alright for the rest of the year, why are the holidays so hard? Research has some answers.

The Holiday Blues

Research recognizes the significance of loneliness during the holidays. Varadaraj R. Velamoor, et al. wrote a paper called Feelings about Christmas [i] where he analyzed data from 55 psychiatric emergency patients between the ages of 16 to 83 years old, between the dates of Dec. 1 and Jan. 13. He found that during the Christmas season, the most commonly reported stressors were loneliness and being without a family, at 40 percent and 38 percent, respectively. This group of patients also reported negative feelings about Christmas, describing the season as depressing, lonely, very stressful, and also financially stressful.

Peter O. Peretti studied holiday depression in college students.[ii] Using a questionnaire, he elicited self-perceived variables of holiday depression, particularly during the Christmas season in 287 female and 133 male students between the ages of 17 to 24 years old. The three most important variables noted were loneliness (ranked first by males), anxiety (ranked first by females), and helplessness.

Peretti also noted that complaints involving the expense of gifts and difficulty of shopping showed the greatest sex difference, ranking 4th among the males in the study, and 11th among the females. Notably, however, there was another finding of arguably timeless relevance, constituting one of the most important factors in Christmas-time depression: buying into the myth that everyone else is having a good time and enjoying loving family relationships.

The reality is that you have no idea how other people are experiencing the holidays, which are meant to be a time of celebration, but often end up being anything but. Many people have nothing to celebrate, plenty to mourn. Others have plenty to celebrate, but no one to celebrate with. Sometimes just recognizing this reality is comforting. Here are a few holiday season ideas to beat the blues.

Practice Philanthropy. Volunteering to help those less fortunate takes the focus off of you and onto others, gets you out of the house, and affords the chance to meet caring, selfless, new friends.

Play Domestic Catch Up. Use holiday time to arrange your home, clean out that closet you have been meaning to get to, and gather a bag of items you are ready to donate. A sense of accomplishment is a real mood booster, and clearing physical space is a good way to clear your mind.

Balance Your Bank Account. For most people, the holidays include some degree of economic stress and spending. Take advantage of having the time to balance your budget. Gathering the paperwork and tackling your financial portfolio will allow you to put one of the biggest year-end stressors behind you, and spare you the anxiety most people face on Jan. 1.

Exercise Your Muscles and Your Mind. Exercise is good therapy both physically and mentally. If you live in an area where you can walk, the health benefits are a great use of your time. If you like to work out in a gym, the crowd of like-minded health enthusiasts can be a mood booster even if you do not know any of them.

Reach Out to Friends. Newsflash: You are not the only one feeling blue during the holidays. Many of your friends and acquaintances might be feeling the same way. Make someone’s day by reaching out. You will probably also make your own.


[i] Velamoor, Varadaraj R., Lakshmi P. Voruganti, and Neelesh K. Nadkarni. 1999. “Feelings about Christmas, as Reported by Psychiatric Emergency Patients.” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 27 (3): 303–8. doi:10.2224/sbp.1999.27.3.303.

[ii] Peretti, Peter O. 1980. “Holiday Depression in Young Adults.” Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient 23 (4): 251–55.….