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6 ways to be alone but not lonely during the holidays

By Gay Falkowski


Most people feel lonely every now and then. If you have multiple sclerosis, you’re probably lonely more often than your healthy peers, according to research from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Sometimes the loneliness is constant, other times it surfaces during certain situations and events. Not surprisingly, the holiday season and the expectations it brings can trigger bouts of loneliness in people who feel disconnected from all the festivities and good cheer.

There are many ways to cope with loneliness during the holidays, but it’s important to realize that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. If you enjoy watching a holiday movie by yourself or reading a good book in the quiet of your home, be glad you enjoy your own company. But, if and when you long to connect with others, you’ll likely want to get involved in activities that make you feel less lonely. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Attend free and low-cost community events. Check out places such as recreation centers, libraries, museums, places of worship, and local colleges. Special holiday events may be advertised in the local newspaper or you may find event calendars for the venues online. When you go to an event, smile and don’t be afraid to start up conversations. People will admire you for going out alone. In fact, your next best friend may be in the crowd!

2. Take inventory of people you enjoy being with throughout the year. How you can connect with them a little more often during the holidays? Instead of texting or Facebook messaging your favorite people, schedule phone calls when you’re both free to chat. If you still live in or near your hometown, find out if old friends will be coming home for the holidays and plan to meet up.

3. Be neighborly. Invite your neighbors over for a small gathering. Keep it simple. One idea is to host a holiday cookie swap party. Ask everyone to bring a few dozen home-baked cookies made from a favorite recipe. At the party everyone swaps recipes and small batches of cookies with others, ending up with a great holiday mix to take home. (Slice and bake is okay, too!) All you do is supply drinks and maybe light snacks. 

4. Volunteer. Why not pair your social activity with a good deed? People in places such as senior living facilities, food pantries, or homeless shelters usually welcome help around the holidays. Seniors who don’t have family nearby will be happy to have someone to talk with, and you’ll feel better, too. Maybe you can start a food drive or a coat collection in your neighborhood – another good way to meet neighbors as you gather items for others in need.

5. Don’t forget furry friends! When you’re feeling lonely, there’s nothing quite like the company of animals to make you feel loved. Reach out to staff at your local animal shelter and see if they need help during the holidays. Sometimes regular volunteers take time off for the season, so having someone to fill their shoes is appreciated. You may have tasks such as feeding and cleaning cages, but cuddle and playtime with the shelter dogs and cats is when you’ll get a fix of companionship – and they will, too.

6. Adopt a military service member. Sometimes the gift of a home stay is the best gift of all for service members who haven’t had a home-cooked meal or seen a couch for a very long time. Not all service members have families to go home to for the holidays. Fortunately, most military bases have official placement programs and some communities organize to connect service members with local families to host for the holidays. If hosting is not possible, consider sending a care package to a soldier who can’t take leave for the holidays. For options or how to help, visit the website www.operationadoptasoldier.org.