Lonely Christmas: How to deal with being alone during the festive season
On your own this Christmas? Here are five tips to avoid loneliness at Christmas and bring joy into your life and the lives of others.
The festive season can be anything but celebratory for many people, particularly if by chance or circumstance, they’re spending it alone. Last year, a Red Cross survey found that about one in three people in Australia had experienced loneliness at Christmas over the previous holiday period.
“Every person’s situation is different … but what we do know is that the festive period is typically when families and friends come together,” says Australian Red Cross CEO, Judy Slatyer. “People experiencing loneliness may have strong memories of happier, more connected times.”
According to a recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 3.5 million Australians will be living alone by 2041 (up from 2.3 million in 2016); an increase of 52% that’s mainly down to our ageing population.
“We know that a sense of belonging is the mark of true wellbeing,” Judy says. “That’s why we launched our Season of Belonging initiative. We wanted to reach out to the Australian public, to share with them the stories of incredible people doing great things in tough times: Aussie farmers finding hope through the drought, former refugees finding safety in Australia, older people finding connections and passing on wisdom to younger generations.”
For those of us without family, friends or partners at this time of year, it’s important to put measures in place to help manage the negative health impacts of loneliness at Christmas. The good news is there are many ways to go about this. Celebrating Christmas and the ‘season of good cheer’ can be an empowering and joyful solo experience:
- Volunteer with a charitable organisation
Nothing brings a sense of belonging and connection more than giving something back to your community, and Christmas really highlights the needs of others around you. National organisations such as the Red Cross, as well as local churches and community groups, work tirelessly to bring comfort and joy over the holiday period and always welcome help from volunteers at this busy time.
“What we know from our staff, who work side by side with our volunteers and members, is that our people have a strong sense of pride in the Red Cross emblem – they get to know their communities and feel a real sense of self-worth by helping others,” says Judy.
- Get involved with festive community events
Whether it’s helping with your local drama society’s Christmas show, making mince pies for the school fundraiser or showing off your craft skills at a local Christmas gift market, there are all kinds of events to take part in leading up to and during the holiday period. It’s also a great way of breaking the ice if you’re shy – nothing kicks off a conversation (or a new friendship) like a common interest, hobby or passion.
Best of all, connecting with kindred spirits in this way is not just for Christmas; it can be the start of lifelong friendships. Organisations such as Meetup offer a diverse range of groups to get involved with, from book clubs to health and wellness, and everything in between.
- Connect with your ‘social’ network
While the negative impacts of social media receive a lot of chatter, the benefits of our digital landscape can be many and varied. If you’re at home alone, logging in to a social forum can be a great way of connecting with people without having to leave the comfort of your armchair.
Set up a group video chat with friends and family living overseas or interstate and enjoy a ‘virtual Christmas Day’ together. Or simply pick up the phone and let someone know you’re thinking about them – you’ll quickly discover you’re not alone.
- Reach out to a neighbour or friend
Just as this time of year may trigger feelings of isolation in yourself, be mindful that many others living on their own are likely on the same page. Why not invite a solo neighbour for Christmas lunch or afternoon tea, or leave a little gift with a card on their doorstep to let them know you’re thinking of them. Even a chat on the street or over the garden fence can make all the difference to someone’s wellbeing – and yours, too. Better still, organise an ‘Orphans’ Christmas’, and invite people you know in a similar situation to share the day with you.
- Be your own Christmas Santa – treat yourself
Christmas is a time for treats, so there’s no better excuse for practicing the art of finding and doing what brings you joy. According to the national mental health charity SANE Australia, being kind to yourself is a habit that can be developed over time.
Prepare your favourite food, binge on your favourite TV series, go to a movie, create your own home health retreat, get lost in a good book, take a swim at the beach, or take a walk and indulge in the health perks of reconnecting with nature. The upside to being on your own is that you can do whatever feels good for you, whenever you want – and that can be a recipe for a happy holiday season indeed.
Want to talk?
For those in need of someone to talk to, or to lend some practical support, there are several organisations within easy reach by phone or to chat to online.
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