This year's Christmas falls over a long weekend. Usually, this news would have people jumping for joy and planning an exciting four-day super-Christmas. But, Christmas 2020 will inevitably feel a little different. With restrictions in place and families trying to safeguard the vulnerable, many of us may end up on our own.
Will I feel lonely if I spend Christmas alone?
Loneliness isn't the same as not seeing people. Experts believe that loneliness is linked to the strength of the relationships we hold, not the number. As such, loneliness is different from social isolation. This is why we can be surrounded by people but still feel lonely or only have one or two friends and feel perfectly happy.
Just because you're alone this Christmas, it doesn't mean you have to feel lonely. We've created this guide to help you avoid feeling lonely and enjoy this year's festivities.
1. Examine your outlook on loneliness
Between 2016 and 2017, the Office for National Statistics researched loneliness across the UK. They found that loneliness isn't restricted to a particular age group or gender. Young people reported the highest feelings of loneliness. Further research shows that approximately 35% of UK residents felt lonelier as a result of the first COVID-19 lockdown.
The reality is that it's completely normal to feel lonely sometimes, and it's not something to be embarrassed about. But, if you feel lonely often or feel particularly down, there are many people you can talk to. You can find several ways to get help a little further down this article.
Sometimes, we might feel lonely because we expect to. In 2014, researchers studied whether participants' expectations of loneliness correlated with their feelings of loneliness eight years later. Many participants who expected to feel lonely, did feel lonely. Researchers concluded that age-based stereotypes might contribute to feelings of loneliness.
So, you don't have to feel lonely this Christmas just because you expect to. You might be perfectly happy with your own company! Either way, understanding how you feel now is a significant step towards finding a way to feel better.
2. Video chat with friends and family
You might not be able to see many people in person this Christmas, but video calling can be an excellent substitute. A study undertaken between 2012 and 2014 looked at the effects of video calling over a two-year period. Results showed that video chat users were half as likely to show depressive symptoms when compared to those who didn't use video chat.
The category of people who didn't use video chat included uses of instant messaging and social media, which suggests that video chat has a unique effect on us. It might not be quite as good as spending the day with someone else, but it's better than not seeing them at all!
3. Make this Christmas about you
Christmas traditions are wonderful, but they can weigh heavy with expectation. If you're not ordinarily alone for Christmas, you might miss the usual festivities. Rather than feeling down and missing traditions, you could take the opportunity to create a different kind of Christmas.
One option is to make this Christmas about you and what you want to do. You might associate Christmas with full-house decorations and a giant feast, but everyone's Christmas will feel a little strange this year. So, why not do exactly what you want to do? You could make your favourite meal, watch your favourite films, curl up on the sofa all day, or go out for an adventurous walk.
Another option is to make Christmas all about other people. Charities have set up online fundraisers and appeals for supplies, meaning you don't have to put yourself at risk if you'd like to volunteer at Christmas time. You could also buy gifts from small businesses and independent craft makers. This way, you know you'll make a positive contribution to a local seller's income and hopefully come away with a beautiful gift.
4. Say yes to new things
It's easy to stay in our comfort zones, especially during winter, when it's cold and dark outside. But, spending more time on our own is an excellent opportunity to try new things. For example, you might have spotted a neighbour going on regular walks. If it's safe to do so, you could suggest going together or strike up a distanced chat about the best places to go. Or, you might have seen an article recommending a new book or TV series. Now's the time to give it a try!
Having more time to yourself also presents the opportunity for new hobbies. We regularly publish tips on taking up new hobbies on our lifestyle pages. This includes exercise, crafts, board games, hobbies you can do on your own, and activities that are perfect for winter.
5. Talk to someone about how you feel
Feeling lonely can make you feel a little helpless. If you can't see a quick way to change your situation, you might wonder how talking to someone will help. Often, getting another perspective can help you see your situation differently and find new solutions. Age UK has published a comprehensive guide on what to do if you feel lonely, including how to get help and make new connections. They say:
"Ignoring [a worry about your mental wellbeing] doesn't make it go away, it's likely to only make it worse in the long-term. Maybe now is the time to take that first step to helping yourself feel better."
So, if you're feeling down or lonely, you don't have to suffer in silence. Your GP can signpost you to a range of brilliant resources. Even talking to a friend or family member is a step in the right direction.
Here at Pension Times, we aim to be a comprehensive guide for the over 50s. We publish regular articles about everything from finance to cooking. We'd love to hear from you, so head over to our social media channels and let us know how you're spending Christmas this year.