Tips to reduce Loneliness and look after your wellbeing this Christmas

Loneliness is a universal and human emotion, it can be complex and unique to each individual. It has no single common cause, the treatment and prevention of the potentially physically and mentally state of mind can vary dramatically. 

Christmas can be a very happy time, where families come together for the festive season to spend time with loved ones. For many though, this can result in an exacerbated feeling of loneliness. It can be a time where a reminder of divorce or separation, the loss of a loved one, the empty nest – where our children are now starting their own family traditions.  It can also feel personal as family and friends face tricky decisions because they have several loved ones they want to see over the festive period.

Research from Campaign to End Loneliness bring our attention to some stark statistics in October 2022. In total, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equtes to twenty five million people. With an estimated two million over 50’s set to experience loneliness by 2025/6. Loneliness is seen by many   as one of the largest health concerns we face, with one example that loneliness and social isolation put pople at a greater risk of cognitive decline.1

So, what can support  if you are feeling the effects of loneliness this Christmas. We are here to offer you some guidance  and approaches to help yourself, and others this Christmas. Take a read of our heart-warming tips;

1

Reach out to an old friend

Why not take the opportunity to get in touch with a pal from school, university or from your old job. Sending a ‘Happy Christmas’ text can be the perfect ice breaker. Or pick up the phone and give them a call. Calls can humanise communication and on hearing each other’s voice can spark laughter from the great times you shared before. Feel the fear and pick up the phone anyway, it could be the start to a revived friendship and the start of making happy memories.

                                                                        2

Share how you are feeling – Physically and Mentally 

Millions of people in the UK live with isolating physical illnesses. An example of this would be Arthritis. Arthritis effects over nine million people today living in the UK2. Living and working with it can affect daily lives, such as interacting with family and friends. If you are feeling lonely and struggling during the festive period for reasons which prevent you joining in with social and family activities. Being honest with those around bridge the misunderstanding gap. Arthritis can worsen in winter, the colder weather can cause negative impacts on joints and pain levels. Share that you may need to pace yourself throughout the festive season. Suggest meeting at your home, or an easily accessible place for your comfort – never be afraid to share how you are feeling, whether it is impacting on you physically or mentally a problem shared is a problem halved. 

3

Greenspace Walk 

Did you know that exercise and movement releases endorphins and can energise our mood. Importantly, according to Mind3, outdoor exercise can reduce low mood and depression.

I struggled a little with loneliness at Christmas after the breakdown of my marriage. I took to a beautiful local green space, which is now our happy place. It gives me a feeling of being connected to myself by exercising and we (me and my now teenage daughters) have spent years having fun there. We walk for miles come rain or shine, on a weekly basis, and we bump into our local community who interesting to say that getting outdoors is great for their physical and mental wellbeing.  Researchers at UWE Bristol have found that stress and anxiety levels among young people are reduced by between 14% to 19% after a 15 minute walk in an urban park compared with street with traffic, it further found  that it creates ‘effortless mindfulness’ that allow us to have a distraction from social media, noise, and traffic that can for some trigger feelings of anger4. Overall, green space can help us connect back to ourselves, bring about calm and improve wellbeing. 

4

Join a meet-up group

One example of another interesting activity that can bring like-minded people together is Meet up. It is a social medial platform for hosting or organising in-person and virtual activities, gatherings, and events for people and communities who share similar interests, hobbies and professions. Founded in 2002, there is something for everyone, from walking groups to book clubs.  People join Meetup to meet new people, learn new things, find support and even get out of their comfort zone. It is suggested that over 250,000 women gather in Meetup groups around the world to sharpen their software and development skills.

5

Volunteer

If you have some spare time to give back over Christmas, and beyond. There are many local organisations and community groups that are looking for volunteers, that need a little extra help. The Charity Mind recommends volunteering as a positive way to make you feed good, by knowing you are helping others. When we feel we are doing good for those in our community it can provide a natural sense of feeling accomplishment. Taking on a role as a volunteer can give you a real sense of identity and pride. Volunteering can also allow for you to meet and chat to new people that in turn can reduce the feeling of isolation. A good website to investigate volunteer roles is https://doit.life/volunteer which lists volunteer positions near your postcode.

Experts believe that it is not the quantity of social interaction that combats loneliness, but the quality. Having only a few close friends is enough to ward off loneliness and reduce the negative health consequences associated with our mental wellbeing. Research suggests that the experience of face-to-face contact with friends supports in boosting a person’s sense of well-being. Loneliness can be overcome, it requires a conscious thinking approach, and effort in making a change. The long-term effects are for the greater good which can help aid a happier, healthier life that can impact others around you in a positive way. 

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