If you’re anticipating spending the holidays on your own, these tips may help you discover how to not feel lonely.

The holidays are often seen as a season of love, joy, and togetherness. But this isn’t the case for everyone.

Whether it’s your personal choice or you find yourself emotionally or physically distanced from family and friends, there are a few ways to manage when spending the holidays alone.

It’s natural to feel lonely, sad, or unmotivated, especially if this is a new experience for you, or you’re experiencing a loss. But you may want to consider lifting some of that weight off your shoulders and exploring ways to make navigating the holidays easier for you.

TV shows, movies, and now social media constantly show you images of what an “ideal” holiday season looks like. Because of this, it can be easy to feel as though you’re not measuring up when spending the holidays alone.

But there’s no one way to experience the holidays.

In fact, just think for a moment about all the ways people spend this time all over the world. Not all cultures involve family gatherings, presents, and similar rituals. People have found other ways to commemorate these dates.

Looking at the holiday season from a different angle may help you remove the emotional pressure. Reassessing your expectations for how the season will go instead of how it should go can help.

What if this is an opportunity to experience something new and different? How would you go about it as an adventure?

This does not mean you have to approach it with a festive attitude, if that’s not how you feel. But it could involve looking at it as an opportunity to do and experience what you need right now.

If you’re going through a difficult time, you could see the holidays as a few days you’ll have to take care of yourself and heal.

If you’re away from loved ones because of a trip or relocation, you could see it as “the year I did something different” and perhaps immerse yourself in local traditions and events.

The exercise is about seeing these few days as a new experience that won’t last forever. It does not need to mean something specific. It can be what you want it to be.

There are many benefits to establishing a regular practice of giving thanks.

Expressing gratitude can help you appreciate what you have, focus on the positives in life, and see the good in others. It can also help you heal.

Research in 2019 suggests that practicing gratitude can improve your overall health and wellness, as well as help with feelings of loneliness.

A gratitude journal is a great way to get started. You could begin by writing down all the things you’re grateful for, from the basic everyday things to the more existential ones.

Not only will this provide you with a physical record to reflect on in moments of need, but research suggests journaling can also help you cultivate a practice that puts things into perspective and creates a positive outlook on life.

Giving your time to support a cause is a great way to give back and do good, particularly during the holidays.

The season is typically filled with opportunities to help those in need, including:

  • participating in a gift drive
  • providing holiday meals for the local homeless population
  • giving time to a local animal shelter
  • donating clothing you no longer use
  • visiting an assisted living home or sending them heartfelt holiday cards

Volunteering can make you feel good about yourself and your life.

Research in 2017 found it can have a positive effect on overall health, particularly for those in under-represented groups. Volunteering may also create a sense of connection to others and causes you may be passionate about.

Many charities or nonprofits offer information and resources on their volunteer needs directly on their websites.

You can also check with your workplace, local school or church, or other community organization that you may already be a part of to see if they have resources on how and where to volunteer your time this season.

While festively decorating, baking, or doing holiday-themed arts and crafts are ways to let your creative juices flow, they aren’t the only ways to engage your creativity during the holidays.

When you’re spending the holidays alone, it can be easier to shy away from typical traditions or activities. Instead of letting yourself focus on what you are not doing with loved ones this year, consider using your imagination to create new traditions for yourself.

This can include any number of things, such as:

  • coming up with a heartfelt tribute to those who are no longer by your side
  • establishing an annual Christmas Day movie date (with yourself or with others)
  • volunteering your time at a local shelter
  • doing a cleansing and good luck ritual at home
  • doing a themed puzzle
  • doing something not holiday-related, like watching a horror movie marathon

Let your creativity run wild — or tame — with whatever new tradition you want to include.

Self-isolating can cause feelings of loneliness, which research suggests could negatively affect your overall health.

Maybe you won’t be around the people you’re usually with during the holiday season. You can try figuring out if you feel a need to withdraw from those who are around.

Reaching out to others can help you regain a sense of connection. This could also apply to loved ones who aren’t in the same city.

There are many ways to seek out a connection, including:

  • calling an old friend
  • arranging a virtual game night with loved ones who live far away
  • saying hi to a new neighbor
  • chatting with the grocery store clerk
  • organizing a Zoom family gathering
  • attending a local event

Sometimes, a little focus is all we need to make it through the holidays.

Setting goals, creating a plan, and organizing a schedule for what you want to achieve during the holidays can help you think less about being alone and more about how to do you.

Try thinking about one thing you want to achieve this season. It can be something small, like perfecting a certain type of cookie, or something larger, like organizing a specific number of holiday care packages for families in need.

Once you have a goal in mind, you can start planning the steps you’ll need to reach it. Then, consider adding these to your calendar to keep yourself accountable, and get started on moving your plan forward.

The holidays often represent a season of giving, but you don’t only have to give to others. You can also treat yourself during this time.

How is completely up to you.

Treating yourself might mean buying an item you’ve had your eye on for a while, visiting a few places you haven’t had time to, or indulging in your favorite dessert.

It can also mean taking time for yourself, spending time in a beloved location, or participating in any other experience that brings you joy. Maybe taking up a new hobby?

Whatever you choose, treating yourself with things or experiences that bring you peace and joy can help your mood and let you reconnect with this time of year differently.

Not every moment is going to be merry and bright when you’re spending the holidays alone (or even when you’re spending them with others), and that’s OK.

You may want to avoid anticipating how you will feel, but you can be ready to embrace however that is.

Making space for your emotions — even the less pleasant ones — can be part of the healing process the holidays offer.

Perhaps spending these days alone may give room for you to express your feelings freely.

Even when you set your heart and mind to have the best possible experience during the holidays, it’s possible you still may find it challenging to be by yourself.

If you continue to have a difficult time coping throughout the holiday season or your feelings of sadness or loneliness increase, it may be time to consider speaking with a mental health professional.

Persistent feelings of loneliness or sadness may be a sign that you need further support. A therapist or other mental health professional can help.

Chronic loneliness is often linked to conditions such as anxiety and depression, and a professional can determine if one of these or another condition is affecting you.

They can also recommend resources and strategies to help you cope, as well as work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Need to talk?

If you’re having a difficult time and need someone to talk to, these resources can help:

Was this helpful?

While there are many reasons for spending the holidays alone, being on your own during this time can sometimes be difficult.

Whether you’re alone by choice or by circumstance, it’s natural to feel lonely or sad at some point.

Discovering new ways to experience this time of year can help you feel less lonely and more empowered.

Volunteering, practicing gratitude, creating your own traditions, and finding ways to connect with others around you are all strategies you can use to get through the holidays alone.

Overall, it’s important to be kind to yourself and act with care — not just during the holidays, but all year long.