“I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams.” Did you know that holiday classic, recorded by the legendary Bing Crosby in 1943, was originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmastime? While the holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, there are so many people who aren’t able to travel home, or don’t have any place to go during this season, and end up feeling downright lonely in the midst of all the holly jolly.
If you’re feeling a bit like your merry has headed south for the winter, one of the best ways to kick those grinchy feelings to the curb is to engage in certain activities that will get you to reach out to friends and loved ones near and far, as well as the people around you. The antidote to loneliness is connecting, so we’ve rounded up five easy ways to help you do just that. (Warning: these ideas will tend to bring out your inner Cheermeister.)
1. Break out the Skype along with the eggnog. These days, Skype make it so easy to feel like you’re there even when you can’t be. If family is gathering together, or you have friends in another state and you can’t be with them, there’s no need for you to spend the holidays alone. Link up long distance and join the conversation and merriment. Thanks to modern technology, you can still bake those traditional family cookies right along with Mom and Grandma, or catch up with your brother, aunt, or a special friend as you wrap presents together from afar.
2. Cultivate gratitude and put pen to paper. It’s well known that expressing gratitude improves your health, so grab a pen and some holiday cards and send some to the people you love and are missing. Thank them for being supportive, for always being able to make you smile, or for those hysterical moments you shared together that you’ll never forget. A fun idea to do for kids or grandkids away at school is to write 12 separate notes or cards for each of the 12 Days of Christmas. You’ll not only be giving them 12 days of fun in their mailbox, but you’ll be creating a great memory, too, for the both of you, while automatically feeling closer. And if you need a nudge to get all the fuzzy feels going, we have ideas for what to write to help get you started. (We also guarantee that you’ll start to feel your heart grow three sizes.)
3. Warm hands, warm heart: share a cup of cheer. Research actually suggests that taking a warm bath or having a comforting hot drink like coffee can help counteract feelings of loneliness. Even those ivy leaguers at Yale have found that adults and young children are more social after they’ve touched something warm. So if you can’t sit down with your own family this year, what better reason to ask a neighbor over for coffee? Or meet up with some friends you haven’t seen in a while at your local coffee shop? And while you’re at it, pay it forward and surprise a police officer or bell ringer with a cup, and watch their face light up like a Christmas tree.
4. Volunteer and make someone happy. There’s a saying that goes, “A sure way to be happy is to make someone else happy.” If you’re far away from the people you care about, sharing something, even if it’s with complete strangers, is one of the best things you can do for yourself when you’re feeling down, plus you’ll be immersed in the true spirit of the holiday season. And don’t forget our furry friends, too — local animal shelters are always in need of extra hands, and, like gratitude, animals have a positive effect on heath and can soothe isolated feelings while bringing an overabundance of comfort at the same time.
5. Focus on what brings you joy. Doing things you love will help soothe your feelings of loneliness. Whether it’s painting, crafts, baking, being outside, or watching favorite holiday movies, don’t forget to treat yourself to the things that feed your soul. Always watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” with someone who you’re not with this year? Invite a neighbor or someone else you know who may be feeling alone, to watch it with you. Oftentimes, it’s sharing what we love that brings us the most happiness.
As Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street reminds us, “Christmas isn’t just a day; it’s a frame of mind,” and we hope that during the holiday season these ideas will help bridge the distance between you and the people you love, as you find joy in the spaces in-between.