Lessons for life
December 11, 2012
Coping with loneliness over the holidays can be especially challenging. We've compiled some advice from best-selling authors and experts to help you feel armed and ready to face the loneliness this holiday season.
Plan singles events. "It's easy to feel left out during the holidays if everyone around you is coupled up," said Dr. Laura Berman, host of "In The Bedroom" on the Oprah Winfrey Network. "The key is to fill your schedule with single-friendly events as well. Have a holiday party where you ask each guest to bring one single friend. Volunteer your time at a local shelter or help answer letters from Santa at the post office to help boost holiday spirit and meet like-minded singles. Offer to take your nieces or nephews ice-skating so Mom and Dad have time to Christmas shop. It will not only get you of the house, it will help remind you of the joys of being single as you come home exhausted and relax with a glass of wine in your quiet house. Or, if time and finances permit, consider taking a trip somewhere you have always dreamed of going, even if you have to travel solo. Make this the year that you live without regrets."
Understand your loneliness. "Defining the difference between being 'lonely' and being 'alone' has been a great coping mechanism for me," said radio host and author John St. Augustine. "You can be with another person and still feel lonely but not be alone. In the times I have had loneliness due to the loss of someone close to me for whatever the reason may be, I begin to understand that it's not just them I miss, but who I was when I was with them that I miss. That recognition of the source of my loneliness allows me to move through the emotions without getting bogged down by them. Once you define a thing, you can change anything."
Look for common ground. "When you're lonely, it may feel hard to reach out, but a key to connecting is to focus on what you have in common with others, not on what you don't," said author and psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff. "I find this especially useful at holiday parties…since I'm basically shy, I find it hard to break the ice with new people. They look like they're in cliques to me. I don't want to intrude where I don't belong. Such thinking only fosters loneliness and paints an unfriendly world. Instead, I remember my teacher's words: 'We're all basically the same, though we may act differently.' Then, feeling more in common with my fellow partygoers, I can smile and say 'hi' rather than stay in my corner. The roots of our division come from not seeing similarities. In your interactions, look for them rather than harping on differences."
Look inside yourself. "Solitude doesn't necessary make one lonely and being surrounded by a roomful of people doesn't ward loneliness off either," said author Sarah McLean, founder of the McLean Meditation Institute. "The solution to loneliness doesn't lie 'out there' in the world. Dealing with loneliness is an inside job. Don't wait for someone to call, invite you out, or to distract you from your feelings. Waiting for things to change can cause a lot of misery. Every situation is better faced with a peaceful mind. Meditation helps you to connect with yourself, your ideas, your inspiration, your creativity and your heart. When you meditate, you will see that the present moment is where happiness lies, where life is lived. You'll be more engaged with the present moment."
Choose joy. "Lonely is a choice. So is joy. I choose joy," said author and motivational speaker Kelly Standing. "When I got divorced and moved to Chicago, I decided to date myself. Every Friday or Saturday night, I took myself to a new place. Sure, I could sit there feeling like a loser, eating alone, or I could decide to see my circumstances as promising, empowering, and liberating...I joined a singles adventure club full of people who liked to do the active and adventurous things I had on my bucket list — sky diving, rock climbing, dance lessons at Fred Astaire. And nothing you do solo this season has to cost a lot of money. Every year, I love taking myself on a self-guided field trip to the lobbies of all the special hotels in town, big or small. They're all decked out so beautifully for the holidays. I sit for a few minutes in each one, watching travelers come and go, ordering an adult beverage or some hot chocolate when the mood strikes. Hotels provide great people-watching. Go out and sniff all that great greenery, see the sights, taste the possibilities.."