Building Independence / Community Partners / Families/Carers / Social Inclusion / Volunteering
Christmas can be a time of loneliness. It is everyone’s concern
Loneliness is growing in Australia with 25% of adults experiencing loneliness on a regular basis according to the 2018 Australian Loneliness Report. Christmas can be a time where loneliness is felt more intensely for some. In the midst of the busyness of the season it’s a good time to be more aware of loneliness and the health and social impacts for people and to find ways to ease loneliness in the community.
What is loneliness?
According to the dictionary, loneliness is ‘a feeling of sadness because one has no friends or company.’ But for many, loneliness can occur in a crowded room, surrounded by family and friends while at the same time feeling inadequate, misunderstood by others or simply feeling that no one cares.
What is the impact of loneliness?
Psychologists say that those who feel lonely have worse physical and mental health than those who are less lonely. Impacts of loneliness include increased stress hormones leading to higher blood pressure, risk of Type 2 diabetes and reduced restorative sleep. Mental health risks also increase and can lead to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, paranoia or panic.
So what can we do to stop feeling lonely?
1. Be positive, focus on the other person and not on how you think you are perceived.
2. Practice listening – show interest, ask questions and really listen.
3. Manage stress – learn ways to calm when feeling anxious, like slow down your breathing.
4. Say no to comparison – resist comparing yourself with others.
5. Chat with a stranger – try a smile and greeting or try a chat in a queue.
6. Reconnect with friends from the past – often they will appreciate your effort to re-connect.
7. Help – give it or ask for it, even small ways like holding the lift helps people feel noticed.
8. Volunteer – follow an interest or develop a hobby and join a group, or try meetups.
9. Limit social media use – frequent use of social media limits interactions with others so try to limit yourself to 1-2 hours a day instead of picking up your phone every two minutes.
10. Persist – it takes time to make it a habit.
How to help when you are not lonely?
Loneliness is not an individual issue; it is also about contributing to others, to a thriving and friendly community. Try to notice people, slow down, look up from screens, smile and greet people more freely, be open to chat and see some interruptions as ways to connect with others.
Tips to help at Christmas.
1. Practice gratitude – being grateful for good things like food in the cupboard, clean water, a place to live and a peaceful neighbourhood/country can help us be more positive.
2. Give – volunteer at a community Christmas lunch or give a gift to charity.
3. Look out for others who may be lonely at Christmas and offer to connect.