Health

7 Ways to Get Rid of Those Lonely Holiday Blues

This holiday season, it might not be all mistletoe and twinkling lights or joy, merriment, and cheer at home with family. For many, spending the holidays with the feeling of loneliness is much more of a reality than the candy-coated media depiction.

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And, unlike Macaulay Culkin's initial joy of being "Home Alone" for Christmas, the seasonally accentuated feeling of loneliness is accompanied by expectations of perfection, increased stress, and low self-esteem; this makes for one ornamental ball of negative feelings.

Research shows that the holidays could accentuate pre-diagnosed depressive disorders. And although there have been few studies conducted evaluating the holiday season's effects on depressive disorder symptoms, a 1980 study assessed that the most relevant factor in depression around holiday season is this factor:

"Individual's belief in the myth that everyone else is having a good time and engaged in loving family relationships—clearly a wish, but not necessarily a fact."

A 1999 study cited a sample of psychiatric emergency service patients and found that the most common stressors during the holidays are being without a family (38 percent of those surveyed) and loneliness (40 percent of those surveyed).

Author of "Saying Goodbye to Loneliness and Finding Intimacy” Crain W. Ellison has said in past interviews that high expectations can come when people invest heavily in the holidays as an attempt to make up for the rest of the year; good suddenly isn't good enough.

There are a multitude of reasons behind why you might be alone on the holidays. Maybe travel arrangements didn’t pan out, your family isn’t involved in your life, finances are low, or your job doesn’t offer holidays off. Being alone may be a product of a death of a close friend or relative, which can also trigger grief and sadness. Holidays alone can reveal a complex emotional layer of guilt that you cannot seem to enjoy the holiday like “everybody else.” Psychologist Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., has claimed that there is a "Norman Rockwell-like characterization" to the holidays that can seem unattainable to people who don't have or fit with the traditional family model.

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But, you are deserving of as much love and cheer this holiday season, and know that you are never truly alone if you don't want to be. You can take this season in stride with these coping mechanisms:

1. Find a friend.

Yes, all your friends might seem scattered during the holidays, but if you’re alone then it’s likely someone else in the area is, too. Look in city guides and on events calendars for group events. Work up some confidence, break out of the bubble, and share joy with a new friend. Can’t find a meet-up? Cast a wide net invite to your social network (friends of friends kind of thing) and make one happen. Host a casual holiday movie night or potluck dinner.

Thanksgiving Alone Group Dinner

2. Take a trip.

If you do have the funds and the time, make the holidays your chance to recoup from the busy year. Take an opportunity to reflect on what you want to do with the coming year with a fresh perspective. A study published in the International Journal of Tourism Research found that a growing number of people travel alone for the holidays citing “personal feelings of freedom, relaxation and discovery” and interaction with other people are drivers in holiday travel satisfaction. Try a “voluntourism” trip through an organization like Hands Up Holidays to do good while exploring somewhere new.

3. Know you're just a video chat away.

Thanks to technology your family and friends are just on the other line of a Skype or Google Hangout. If distance keeps you apart, then spend valuable time swapping stories just like you would if you were in the same room. Intentionally connect with people you haven't seen. What better excuse than the holidays to say hello?

4. Step outside and play.

You’ve likely heard of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD); as days are shorter and sunlight is lessened, you’re perhaps feeling busy and constantly cold. Like its acronym, this disorder can add to sad feelings of being alone during the holidays. Instead of investing in a light box, seize the daylight by taking a brisk walk or run throughout the holiday season.

5. Treat yo' self.

If you’re feeling a little lonely then that is a great reason to pamper yourself a little extra than you normally would. Treat yourself to a massage or a day at the spa during the holidays. Even if it means curling up by the fire and ditching your phone for a good book, take time to bask in a much needed dose of self-love.

Treat Yo Self | Parks and Recreation

6. Try on tradition for size.

Traditions are integral to the holiday season, but they can seem distant if the friends or family you love aren't nearby to share them with you. In a study on "Counteracting Loneliness" the most resilient people will often evoke nostalgia when they feel lonely. And while it may seem odd at first, specialists recommend that you continue the traditions you love even by yourself. Ask grandma for her famous pumpkin pie recipe and dish up some sweetness, or listen to the family-favorite holiday album while hanging seasonal decor.

7. Give back good vibes.

Many people would welcome a warm meal and helping hand over the holiday season. Reach out to volunteer organizations and relinquish woes by giving back through serving a meal at a local homeless shelter or delivering a meal with Meals on Wheels. Adopt a family in need to collect gifts for, (Family-To-Family is a great place to start) or visit with senior citizens at a nursing home (many never have visitors). Help out with the dogs, cats, and other animals at a local animal shelter for an immediate dose of the warm fuzzies.