It seems almost everywhere we turn, we’re reminded it’s the “most wonderful time of the year.” From holly jolly music to impossibly cheerful movies playing on a loop, it’s a seasonal theme that’s hard to get away from.
But what if it’s not that wonderful this time around? What if it’s the first holiday since your divorce or breakup? Or you simply haven’t met the love of your life yet and are dreading another New Year’s Eve alone, or as an awkward third, fifth, or ninth wheel? For many, the holidays may bring more angst than joy.
Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, and author of The Power of Different, prepares people to expect the first holiday after a loss to be the hardest (phone communication, December 16, 2016). “Any significant event or anniversary that would have been spent with your loved one will often exacerbate feelings of loss, grief, and loneliness.” All the expectations that the holidays bring can make one feel like they are “alone in it.” It’s important to remember,” she says, “that this is not true and there are others in the same boat.”
If you’re feeling anxious about being unattached this holiday season, below are some things you can do:
1. Get Out of the House
Getting out and about rather than staying home and isolating is one tip Dallisa Hocking, founder of dating network LoveFrogKisser.com, offers her single clients. “It can be really easy to slip into feelings of loneliness if you keep yourself locked inside, without socializing,” Hocking says (email communication, December 14, 2016). “Ask a friend to grab coffee, go and see a movie, or check out that new restaurant in town. Being around others will help to lift your spirit!”
Dr. Saltz agrees. “To retreat when lonely can make it worse,” she says. Saltz strongly suggests reaching out to others, asking to join them, or finding a group of people who are going through something similar.
Dating and relationship coach Jonathan Bennett advises single people that “contrary to Christmas movies, your soulmate isn’t going to appear under the tree wearing a bow and instantly solve all of your problems.” He suggests doing things to bring cheer to others, such as wearing an ugly sweater to work or to a party, or to throw your own holiday party (email communication, December 14, 2016). “This method will not only help you feel better about the holidays, but also get you out among people, many of whom are bound to be single!”
Even if you’re not looking to meet a romantic partner, being around other singles may help you feel less alone, and perhaps lead to new friendships or potential networking opportunities.
Making others feel good naturally makes us feel good. We are social beings, after all. Research has shown over and over again the link between generosity and the release of “happy” chemicals in our brains, including dopamine and oxytocin—sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because of its release during social bonding.
Acts of kindness such as volunteering have also been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and stress, and lead to better health and longevity. Volunteering—whether at a nursing home, hospital, animal shelter, or soup kitchen—is also a good way to meet like-minded people and new friends. Who knows where that might lead?
3. Practice Gratitude
The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Whether you decide to be with others or stay in and treat yourself to a favorite movie and good food, be sure to treat yourself as you would want anyone else in your life to treat you.
One of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves this holiday season, and all seasons, is the gift of gratitude. Most of us are experts at focusing on the negative. It’s easy to become attached to the often-false stories we tell ourselves. At one time, this constant attention to the “bad stuff” was essential to our survival. We still need to be aware of the realities surrounding us, both good and bad. However, when we devote most of our energy to the negative, we are putting our emotional and psychological well-being at risk.
Regardless of how little you think you have, there will always be someone with less. Being reminded of this can put things in perspective. In a culture based on individuality, it’s all too easy to get lost in our own bubbles. Sometimes we could use a good bubble burst to put our egos in check and realize that, hey, maybe life isn’t so bad and we have a lot for which to be grateful.
4. Renew Your Purpose
Or simply renew. The holidays could be an opportune time to reflect on the past year and imagine how you would like the next year, or next few years, to look. Why not get a jump-start on your New Year’s resolutions list?
Perhaps this is the perfect chance to take that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Especially if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or breakup, temporarily getting out of the place where all your memories reside may not be a bad idea.
Dating expert and blogger Treva Brandon Scharf (The Late Blooming Bride) has some advice for single people during the holidays (email communication, December 14, 2016): “First, be okay being by yourself. Make peace with being alone, find enjoyment in the quiet time, and remember: being single isn’t the worst thing in the world. You can use the time productively to get things done, or engage in the things you love.”
5. Embrace Your Singledom
Scharf, who married for the first time when she was 51 and considers herself rather well-versed in singledom, says she’s spent many a holiday single and still had a great time.
According to relationship and dating coach Rosalind Sedacca (Women Dating After 40), being single could be a really good thing. “You’re not tied down to anyone or stuck in an unhappy relationship. Your life is full of possibilities. It’s a choice of how we want to see ourselves,” she says (email communication, December 15, 2016). “Embrace your individualism, not your relationship status. You are much more than a single [person]. You have talents, experience, a unique background, personal interests in your work, etc. It’s up to you to feel whole, complete, and empowered as a valuable individual who happens to be single. Being part of a couple does not make you a better person!”
I couldn’t agree more. Neither could Paige Donner, author, photographer, entrepreneur, and “life enthusiast” who lives in Paris, where she has spent the past three holiday seasons single—and loved every moment of it. “I am firmly of the mind that I would rather be alone than with someone who is not right for me,” she says (email communication, December 14, 2016). “… I guess that is why I love this time of year so much. It is all about being a human being rather than a human doing, and this is something I can easily be when I am by myself on Christmas Day.”
Whether you recently got out of a relationship, haven’t found one, or have no desire for a relationship but dread the holiday season, try some of the suggestions above and see how a change of perspective might make a difference. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Whether you decide to be with others or stay in and treat yourself to a favorite movie and good food, be sure to treat yourself as you would want anyone else in your life to treat you. It’s your holiday to celebrate, or not, as you would like.
- Renter, E. (2015, May 1). What generosity does to your brain and life expectancy. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/05/01/what-generosity-does-to-your-brain-and-life-expectancy
- Saltz, G. (2017). The power of different: The link between disorder and genius. New York, NY: Flatiron Books.
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