It’s that time of year again—the beautiful decorations are up in homes, stores, and churches; Christmas carols are playing on nearly every radio station; thousands of last-minute gift idea emails and articles are flooding your inbox and newsfeed. It’s a joyous time of social gatherings, shared rituals, and reminiscing for many people. But have you found yourself feeling lonely?
While it’s a myth that there are more suicides in December than at any other time of year, it is true that more people experience loneliness during the months of November and December than any other time of the year.
Because we’re bombarded with images of bonding families, laughing friends, and fun work parties. The entire season is supposed to be about being with others, giving to others, and loving others, but more and more people only feel more alone and isolated during the holidays. In a time when there are more ways than ever for us to connect with others, people feel more lonely.
That’s because so many of the ways we “connect” with others can easily become superficial.
Our need for intimacy can’t be satisfied by the superficial.
We were created for communion—for an exchange with God and others on a much more personal level. True intimacy comes from being known and understood and knowing others on that same level, and that doesn’t come easy in a fast-paced, competitive world, where it’s hard to know who to trust or to find time to invest. Close relationships have become harder and harder to build in the midst of our super busy lifestyles.
So, what can you do if you’re feeling lonely during this season, or any others for that matter?
1. Take a hard look at your expectations.
- Expecting an invite to something every weekend?
- Looking at social media often and feeling envious of what everyone else appears to be doing?
- Expecting your holidays to look like those in the movies?
Society sets high expectations for ALL of us during this time of year. Examine your own expectations. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison or setting your expectations too high. Make sure you’re being realistic.
2. Practice thankfulness.
It’s harder to think about how lonely you’re feeling when you’re focusing on things you’re thankful for. Think of the things you value in your life and are thankful for and write them down in a “gratitude journal.” Read through it when you’re feeling down or lonely.
3. Don’t withdraw.
Oddly, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves more when we’re feeling lonely. But avoiding social gatherings during the holidays will only make you feel more alone.
Don’t be afraid to initiate contact with people. Reach out to others no matter how difficult it may seem, and go out.
4. Take care of yourself.
A healthy diet, a regular sleep pattern, and exercise can all help improve your perspective. Be sure you’re eating right, getting enough sleep, and doing some sort of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Get your mind off of yourself by getting it on others. Work at a soup kitchen, organize a food or coat drive, or help an elderly neighbor. Find a cause you believe in and give your time.
And most importantly…
6. Connect with God
Get in the Word and pray. Don’t pull away from God. No one knows you better than He does or understands loneliness more. Jesus experienced the ultimate loneliness of the cross, but His sacrifice cleared the way so you can go to God and experience His presence when you feel lonely.
Jesus is a dear friend who will never leave you or forsake you.
Please note: Sometimes loneliness is a symptom of a greater problem. If you have ongoing feelings of loneliness or depression, it may be time to seek the professional help of a pastor, Christian counselor, or medical professional.