If you dread this festive, family-focused season and prefer to skip December altogether, you’re certainly not alone. 1 in 4 Americans report feeling lonely during the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association. In the UK, a “Campaign to End Loneliness” has taken shape, as more than 300,000 elderly adults reported feeling isolated during this time of year. And it’s not just older people who feel this way: A 2010 report found that 18- to 34-year-olds actually felt lonelier than the over-55s.
But take heart—there are plenty of simple ways you can ease the glum feelings. First, realize you’re not the only one feeling this way and resolve to take positive steps toward connecting with people. You can get past these bad feelings.
A few ideas to get you started:
- Reach for your cell. People love getting holiday texts. Or calls. Or emails. Even if it’s been months or years, surprise someone with a message. (Of course, you may need to identify yourself if it’s been quite a while.) Connecting with just one person will brighten your day.
- Walk it off. Take a stroll around your neighborhood or someplace new, as simply walking can help you feel connected. Say hello to a few people, especially those walking alone. Wish a few people a “Happy Holidays.” No one thinks it’s weird; they expect it!
- Go to parties. If you’re invited, don’t stay at home feeling funky. Get out there. Resolve to stay for at least 30 minutes. Chat with someone standing alone. Simply ask how they know the host or what they do for a living—those are easy topics.
- Join a social group. Even if you don’t feel sociable, you need to get out a little. Book clubs are everywhere. Thousands of Meetup groups all have holiday events. If you find just one person to talk to, you’ve made progress. Chances are, you’ve made that person’s holidays more pleasant, too.
Showing kindness toward others will also help relieve your stress level, science shows. Simply saying hello to the grocery store clerk or holding a door open for a stranger is a step toward feeling better overall. With today’s hectic lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these little things. But they can make a difference in our mental health—and make life more enjoyable for all.