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Ask an Expert: Combating loneliness during the holidays

Depressed young red-haired woman on Christmas holiday.
USU Extension
Though loneliness is common, there are things you can do to enjoy the season, no matter what your situation.

A recent survey from the American Association of Retired Persons found that 31% of respondents said they had felt lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years, and 41% worried about a family member or friend feeling alone. Though loneliness is common, there are things you can do to enjoy the season, no matter what your situation. Consider these tips.

Service: Think of someone in need or a good cause to support when you are feeling down. Service can help improve your mood and sense of self-worth. Service has been shown to improve conflict resolution skills and vocational capacity among adolescents. An act of kindness can be as easy as helping a family member, friend or neighbor in need. If you are looking for a service opportunity, an internet search can help you find people and organizations with needs in your area.

Social relationships: We all need friends, family and loved ones. However, even those with loved ones around them can feel lonely or have mental health challenges. If you start feeling lonely this year, reach out to friends or family members. Something as simple as sending a text or engaging in a conversation can lift your spirits.

Self-love: Some psychologists believe that our level of self-love is connected to our ability to love others, and that to love yourself, you need to know and take care of yourself. Doing something nice for yourself can help increase your happiness. For example, give yourself a gift, write in your journal, watch a movie or enjoy nature. Whatever it is, do something meaningful to you that makes you happy.

Gratitude: Even when circumstances seem bleak, practicing gratitude can help you remember the good things you have in life. Studies show that gratitude is associated with well-being and can be used to help face difficult times. To increase your gratitude, write a note, verbally express appreciation to those around you, or make a gratitude list.

There are things you can do to help combat loneliness and poor mental health during the holiday season. Implementing ideas from the examples provided may help improve your mood and make the holidays happier.

For a list of references and citations, click here.