Feeling low this Christmas season? You’re not alone. Amid cheery songs, festive parties, gifts, and good wishes, many lonely people are crying or dying on the inside. Maybe you’re one of them.
Loneliness has nothing to do with being alone; feeling lonely can happen whether you are on your own or in a crowd. Loneliness is an all-consuming darkness, possibly with feelings of anxiety or sadness, triggered by feeling isolated due to lack of connection or communication with others.
I’ve had to spend Christmas alone by myself for two years since there was issues with spending it with the family, so I’m too familiar with the feeling. Romantic estrangement, family strife, and bereavement can make your holidays dismal.
[Read the blog post “Three easy steps to make great progress in your life and be happy”]
That is why we have come up with a list of 30 activities you can do to take those blues away. The trick to these activities is that you actually have to get up and do them, instead of sitting in the dark and feeling sorry for yourself. Take a page from Bradley Whitford who said, “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honour your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.”
1. Don’t blame yourself in any way, shape, or form.
Trust me, it will only make you feel worse. Blaming yourself for how you feel is never skilful, productive, or kind. A host of causes and conditions have come together in your life to create this painful feeling. It’s not your fault.
2. Start small
The best way out of a loneliness vortex is to start small with some simple social interactions. Try making small talk with the cashier at the supermarket or sending a text to a friend. Yep, it might feel super awkward at first, but these small interactions can help you feel less alone and isolated.
3. Just show up
Don’t be hesitant to talk to people, even if you feel awkward or don’t like them at first. If you’re genuinely interested or curious about others, they’re more likely to reciprocate those feelings. Chat to the person nearest to you at a coffee shop. Talk to the person in front of you at the check out line. Start the conversation with a compliment or a comment about something that’s happening around you both; like, “Wow, it’s busy here today.”
4. Seek relief from a comforting activity
There are lots of possibilities; comfort food, a favourite book or a nature show on TV, or even just sitting outside for a while. We can find solace in many things that ease the pain of loneliness. Experiment and see what helps you feel better.
5. Go on a solo date
You know the problem with group and couples’ dates? The annoying “So what do we do?” and “Where do we eat?” questions. When you go on a date with yourself, you’re sure to go somewhere you actually like and you don’t have to wait around for others to decide. Grab a good book, the morning crossword or a sports mag and head to a local spot. You don’t have to get too creative, just find somewhere you’re comfortable chilling out for an hour. It might be a local cafe, a gallery or the nearest beach. The first few times flying solo can feel a little awkward. You might even worry that people are judging you, but we promise they’re not. A regular hang spot can also help you to meet new people. If you hit up the same place often enough, you’ll start to notice some familiar faces, and might even make a few friends.
[Read the blog post about “Only 9.2% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions“]
6. Connect with a human friend if you can
Think of someone who is always supportive or who simply makes you laugh and give that person a call or send them an email. You may resist doing this at first because it can be hard to reach out to others when you’re feeling lonely. In my experience, however, it’s worth giving myself the little extra push that’s needed to contact someone I can count on. Don’t forget to try and reach out to people you haven’t spoken to for a long period of time. One thing I’ve learnt is that when I do phone a friend and ask them to join me to do something, they often have their own plans. So rather phone and book a convenient time for them to meet up with you. Do this with a few people and start booking times out in your dairy, this will give you something to look forward to.
7. Know the difference between loneliness and isolation
Loneliness is an emotion, mostly triggered by a sad memory. Unfortunately, the brain loves to overanalyse things, so even momentary loneliness can escalate to longer spells because of thoughts like “Why do I feel so alone?” and “Am I a loser no one loves?” When this happens, just acknowledge the feeling and don’t overreact. Learn to recognise when you are having negative thoughts like; “No one likes me.” Make a conscious effort to change your thoughts when you feel negative thoughts are creeping in.
8. Do something creative, no matter how simple.
Getting bored is a prerequisite of feeling lonely. And what’s one of the main causes of getting bored? Having nothing to do. So, keep yourself occupied! Try a new recipe. Create a scrapbook. Finish that DIY project you’ve been postponing for so long. It need not be earth-shatteringly creative. Try a colouring book or a jigsaw puzzle, make a collage, or experiment with needlework of some kind. Or think outside the box and come up with something that is fun and soothing for you to do.
9. Attend Meetups
Go to meetup.com and find a group in your city. There are tons of meetup groups catering to every interest, job, city and hobby, so it’s impossible not to find a group to your liking. People who join meetup.com are eager to meet new people and are incredibly friendly so it’s a nice way to make new friends. What are you into: video games, music, books? Joining a club is an awesome way to meet and connect with like-minded people.
10. Help someone in need.
Helping others eases loneliness because it makes us be less self-focused. It could be an elderly neighbour or someone on a social-media site who might benefit from a supportive comment. Focusing on the needs of others steers your mind away from sad thoughts. It’s impossible to feel lonely when you’re feeding the homeless, reading to kids at an orphanage, or dancing with grandmas at a salsa class. Helping the less fortunate will also fill you with immense gratitude. When you’re feeling isolated, volunteering helps to get you out into the world, connects you with the community and, by keeping you busy, helps take your mind off your own problems. There are stacks of charities in your local area that will be looking for volunteers. Try local nursing homes, childcare centres, or homeless shelters.
[Get step-by-step instructions on how you can “Making This Year Your Year”]
11. Watch a movie
Watch a movie alone or call some friends to go with you, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is you immerse yourself in an interesting story that’ll erase your gloomy thoughts. Watch a chick-flick, or a super hero movie; anything but a tear jerker, really and grab lots of sweets and popcorn.
12. Call others who are lonely
Call to mind others who are feeling lonely and send them kind and compassionate thoughts. Wishing well to others who are lonely creates a special connection between the two of you. Even more, when you realise that you’re not alone in your loneliness, you’ll feel less lonely. At least, that’s how this little practice works for me.
13. Hang out with some non-humans
A furry cat or dog will cheer you up. The playfulness of pets, plus the troubles (and fun) you’ll experience while training them will make you forget about your troubles. Even a goldfish or pretty parrot can do wonders for your mood. Animals are great at making us feel connected and cared for. ‘Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression [and] ease loneliness,’ according to an article titled ‘Mind-Boosting Power of Dogs’. If you’re not ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, you could always get into pet minding. Ask your neighbours and friends: they might have a dog you could take for a walk occasionally, or a cat you could come over to visit and pet. Go visit a place where you can interact with animals (if you aren’t prepared to get your own), such as the SPCA or a petting farm.
14. Visualise where you want to be
Visualize some place you’d like to b, a fun gathering, the seashore, a sporting event and see if, just for a moment, you can feel happy for those who are there. Feeling happy for others even when they’re doing what you wish you could do can make you feel as if you’re there with them, and that eases the pain of loneliness. Even if feeling happy for others only lasts a short time, it’s soothing and healing and amazingly, it can even make you feel happy!
Be aware of what your thoughts are; click here to find out how to: https://upliftlearning.co.za/courses/how-to-discipline-your-mind-for-greater-success/
15. Identify the cause of your loneliness
People are often told to cope with loneliness by engaging in a social activity, but this isn’t always wise advice. In order to truly cope with loneliness, one must understand why they’re feeling lonely. If you’re lonely because your relationships lack depth/meaning, or you feel like people, including friends, don’t really know you, it might make sense to examine what’s getting in the way of building intimacy. Are you afraid of being vulnerable with others? Is it difficult to move beyond small-talk in social situations? Once you identify the reason that you’re feeling lonely, you can learn how to remedy it. For example, try moving beyond small talk in your day-to-day conversations. Instead of asking a co-worker or friend about their weekend plans, ask a more personal question, like “What’s one thing that I don’t know about you?” or “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” These types of questions can foster human connection.
Second, use info from social media as a conversation starter. It’s difficult to forgo social media, but we can make wiser choices about how we incorporate it into our daily lives. That doesn’t necessarily mean going on a digital detox, but rather using the info you glean from a friend’s social-media reel as a conversation starter the next time you get together. Or better yet, use the information as an opportunity to reach out and make plans to see each other. For example, this past week I learned that a friend started a six-week exercise program. Knowing that she’s excited about her new routine, I reached out to ask her how it’s going and made plans to have coffee, tomorrow afternoon.
[Get personalised guidance on how to work out your purpose]
16. Treat loneliness as an old friend who’s dropped in for a visit (despite not having received an invitation)
This is a way of not resisting how you’re feeling; resisting only makes you feel worse. Making friends with how we feel is self-compassion in action. So, take care of your loneliness as if it’s an old friend. Sometimes I say, “Hello, loneliness. I see you’ve come to visit again for a while.” When you let painful emotions into your heart with compassion, it disarms them and that takes away their sting. This eases your pain.
17. Read fiction
Please don’t pick a Dummies book on how to stop feeling lonely. Reading self-help when you’re feeling miserable will make just you feel worse. Read a good novel instead. Losing yourself in a good story or identifying with a powerful character will boost your confidence and fill you with a sense of adventure.
18. Remind yourself that life is not always fun, and that tomorrow is a new day.
Nobody gets their way all the time and let’s face it, life isn’t always fun. This is true for everyone. The bottom line is that loneliness is one of those unpleasant moments in your life. That’s all it is. In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “No feeling is final.” If you can be patient with your loneliness, it’s likely that by tomorrow, it will have eased a bit. Then, the next day, it’s likely to have eased even more. All emotions are impermanent. They arise and pass, arise and pass.
If you need some guidance on what career would best suit you: Career Guidance Assessments
Running is scientifically proven to make you happier. Even 30 minutes of walking can instantly lift your mood, according to a study published at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Attend classes for a fun new exercise like yoga, pole dancing, or trampoline jumping. The exact exercise doesn’t matter. The point is to get yourself moving, while trying something new in the supportive environment of a group class. Ok, so exercise is great for keeping you less stressed and well, but have you thought about it as a way to meet new people? The good thing about sport is that it’s regular, so it might take a while but you can build up relationships over time and there’s not as much pressure. Or, if you have a friend that’s interested, consider asking them to meet up for a walk or run.
Start slow and just do a 7 minute workout: https://youtu.be/yL_dE81O_mw
20. Take a bath
Where do good ideas come from? In the shower, right? Taking a nice, long, and relaxing bath is a great way to be bask in your alone time, instead of drowning in self-pity. Ladies, prepare a glass of red, chocolates and magazines. Gents, take a bubble bath ala Chandler by taking a manly boat with you!
21. Get coffee
Go to a coffee shop far from your home or work. Then order coffee and sit on the bar, or that big table on the centre where you can talk to people. Compliment someone on their tie, shoes or bag. Start a conversation. Don’t worry if you’re bad at small talk, because chances are you won’t see that person again.
[Get the book: Parental Guide to Raising Teenagers]
22. Take a random bus, train or taxi off to anywhere
Taking public transportation to a random location forces you to do two things; be in the company of strangers and change your environment. Doing this will ward off loneliness and cure your wanderlust as well. Go for an adventure and go see a place within your area that you’ve never been. Or go to a place that you’ve always thought; “That place looks nice” but you’ve never been.
23. Get online
Talking to people online is a great way to battle loneliness, as it allows you to stay in a comfortable, safe space (such as your own room) and still make contact with the outside world. While sometimes it can be a mission to dodge the trolls and haters, a little searching should uncover an online haven filled with your kind of people.
Try this: https://www.meetup.com/
24. Start A 5-minute gratitude journal
It’s hard to feel down when you know that you have a lot to be thankful for. When you don’t know what to be thankful for, just write what you feel. Sometimes, it can help you identify why you feel lonely in the first place.
Learn more on how to do this: https://www.intelligentchange.com/blogs/read/five-minute-journal-tips
25. Practice JOMO
Social media is helpful, but it could be detrimental depending on how you use it. When your default behaviour is to keep scrolling on Facebook instead of talking to whoever’s with you or taking a picture of everything you eat instead of just savouring it, then it’s time to experience the joy of missing out (JOMO), a practice promoted by Randi Zuckerberg. Yes, she’s Mark Zuckerberg’s sister.
[Need help with EXAMS?]
26. Schedule in something social
Sometimes when you’re in a loneliness spiral, you might start turning down opportunities to socialise, without even realising it. Try to challenge yourself to get out and socialise at least once a week. Make a note in your diary of at least one regular weekly social activity and plan your time so that you don’t forget it. By filling up your dairy will make you look forward to something.
Try some of these: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a26872864/what-to-do-when-bored/
Writing is a great way to battle loneliness, as it helps you to clarify your thoughts, process your emotions and get to know yourself better. Your journal can become like a best friend: it’s a ‘safe place’ for letting everything out, and it’s always going to be there for you. But you don’t just have to stick to journal writing; writing a poem, a short story or even some song lyrics can also be a great way to deal with feelings of isolation. You could try a journaling app such as Day One.
28. Do something craaaazy
Sometimes, we feel lonely because we’re actually alone. So, take this chance to do the things you can only do when you’re alone, like dancing naked or jumping on the bed with your shoes on. Doing crazy stuff alone will give you a good laugh. Dress up like a tourist and do all the cheesy touristy things in your city. Eat the local delicacy, tour the crowded tourist spots and explore new locations you’ve never heard of.
29. Watch inspiring Ted Talks
Ted Talks are inspiring and informative. I don’t know why, but watching a few Ted Talks really help when I feel lonely and helpless. Some of my favourites are: “Connected, but alone?” by Sherry Turkle, and “Success, failure and the drive to keep creating” by Elizabeth Glibert.
30. Get help
If you’ve tried a couple of these steps and are still feeling disconnected, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you need it, your doctor can set you up with a mental health plan that will enable you to access counselling or to visit a psychologist. Don’t be afraid to get the support you need.
Check these options out: https://www.top10.com/online-therapy/rotw-comparison
Don’t forget, stacks of people have times where they feel a sense of loneliness, so you’ll never be alone in feeling lonely. Taking even just a few of the steps above can help reduce your isolation and should help you start to feel better.
You can choose how to let this holiday season affect you. You can let it bring you down or allow it to lift your spirits despite whatever unpleasantness has happened to you this year or who is not sharing the season with you. You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. If you need help coping with the holiday blues, contact the South African Depression 24-hour Helpline 0800 12 13 14.