Written by Mike James, a freelance writer partnering with Into the Blue on this and a number of other Christmas posts.
For many people, Christmas is the highlight of the year. It’s a chance to unwind from the hassles and stresses of life and celebrate the festivities surrounded by friends and family. A time to be happy and to feel loved. But what if you don’t?
People can be alone at Christmas for many different reasons – living far from home, no close family, or the recent loss of a loved one are just a few examples. Did you know that around half a million elderly people spend Christmas on their own every year?
It’s important not to confuse being alone with being lonely. While it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the solitude of your own company anywhere and anytime, Christmas included, loneliness is never fun and can be hard to bear. According to Age Concern, 1.2 million people in the UK are chronically lonely.
If you’re dreading spending the Christmas holidays on your own, here are some tips and ideas to help you cope.
- Volunteer for a charity
Shift the focus away from your own situation and make Christmas all about giving. Many charities and voluntary organisations are active throughout the Christmas period (and beyond!) to help those in need, and an extra pair of hands is always welcome.
Volunteering is a great way to get amongst people and away from your lonely home, while making a real difference to those less fortunate than yourself. Being able to help others at this crucial time of year will give you a different sense of happiness and perhaps the opportunity to gain inspiration and strength from people in all sorts of difficult situations.
Check for charity events in your local area or online, and consider offering to help out at a soup kitchen or charity Christmas dinner, bring gifts to a children’s hospital, or visit lonely residents at a Nursing Home.
- Go to work
If there’s an opportunity to work through the Christmas period, why not take the chance to keep busy? There are plenty of others who will be keen to take Christmas off to spend time with their families, meaning your offer to hold the fort and keep business going may be very welcome indeed.
Develop a sense of Christmas camaraderie with other colleagues who are also on duty over the festive period and have a little celebration between you. Mince pies at the desk? Fairy lights draped around the office? Christmas carols on the radio?
Even better, depending on the sort of work you do, you could be on an attractive overtime rate. Now there’s a Christmas present you wouldn’t have had otherwise!
- Join the community
With over a million chronically lonely people in this country, you’re certainly not the only one to have nobody to share Christmas with. Chances are that there are others nearby in exactly the same situation. Why not club together?
Investigate local community groups or church organisations to see if you can join in with a community Christmas Dinner, possibly making new friends in the process? Alternatively, if you’d like the opportunity to cook up a Christmas feast yourself, why not be the host?
Orphan Christmas is a new movement originating in Australia, encouraging people to open their hearts and doors to those in the community who may otherwise spend Christmas on their own.
Community Christmas is an initiative to make sure no elderly person has to spend Christmas alone. They organise Christmas Lunches, pub/restaurant visits, film viewings and all sorts of other get-togethers aimed at building social interaction in the community.
- Have an online Christmas
Perhaps your friends and relatives are far away, or you’re not able to meet up for reasons of illness or mobility issues? In that case, have Christmas party online!
Technology, thankfully, has completely revolutionised the way we’re able to communicate with each other – you can now even get Christmas e-Cards here. From text messaging to social media, email to video calling, it’s now easy to keep in touch. Use Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts to set up virtual meetings with your loved ones – whether they live around the corner or across the globe. By setting up a Skype chatroom or Facebook group, people can drop in and out as they please. And the best bit? You don’t have to do the cooking or the cleaning, or even get dressed!
- Do something new and exciting
Rather than sitting at home feeling down during the Christmas holidays, now is the chance to do something you wouldn’t normally have time for. Choir Singing or Quilting? Chess or Country Walking? As long as it’s an activity you’re excited about and it involves social interaction or team work, it’s got to be a good thing.
Why not give a Christmas present to yourself that isn’t a ‘thing’ but an experience? If you fancy yourself as a bit of a wine connoisseur, sign up for a Wine Appreciation course. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to make chocolate truffles, a Chocolate Workshop may be the perfect answer. From Flower Arranging to Salsa Dancing, Yoga Retreats to Bushcraft Skills, now’s the time to broaden your horizons.
Try to incorporate a physical element into your activity as this is proven to have mood lifting benefits. And if your mood is more positive, you’re more likely to want to reach out and connect with the people around you.