Loneliness can feel different for everyone. You may choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people, while others may find the lack of contact a lonely experience.
Unfortunately, at this time of year, Christmas does not always bring joy to everyone. The pressures of social occasions, gift buying and the remainder of the loss of loved ones can lead many to feel depressed and isolated.
Loneliness is not a mental illness but can lead you to feel sad and isolated which can sometimes lead to depression. Common symptoms of depression are restlessness, irritability, feeling worthless and finding no enjoyment in activities. There are many reasons why some may feel lonely, for example, this could be the first Christmas without a loved one, unable to travel to see family members or have had a tough year.
For many elderly people Christmas can be a difficult time, According to Age UK half a million older people can go up to a week without seeing or speaking to anyone. If you have an elderly relative or friend who may be spending Christmas alone check in on them. If you have any spare Christmas cards send one as this could make their day slightly better.
Start a conversation
A simple conversation can make a difference in someone’s day. Social interactions stop the feeling of loneliness and help someone feel less lonely. The NHS recommends smiling at the beginning of a conversation as this has been shown to alleviate the feeling of loneliness. Say hello to a neighbour if you pass them in the street and ask how their day is going, you could even ask them in for a cup of tea or some dinner. If you’re slowing down for Christmas, why not reach out to an old friend and plan to meet up? If they are too far away, then just picking up the phone can make such a difference.
Many charities, organisations and community groups need volunteers over the Christmas period. There is mutual benefit to volunteering, you will feel good for helping others and knowing you are making a difference to them whilst they benefit from the social interaction and feel less lonely.
If the low mood you experiencing does not go away after a few weeks or it is recurring, this could be a sign of depression. If you or someone you know is dealing with loneliness or depression over the holidays, there are lots of things that you can do to help. A conversation is a great start, whether that is with your, family, friends or GP. People with depression feel they are a burden and bring those around them down but it’s important to reassure them that they don’t have to suffer in silence.