Make the season social: Tips to handle holiday loneliness

November 13, 2019 Providence Body & Mind Team


In this article: 

  • The holidays can be challenging and lonely for many people, particularly seniors who live alone or away from family.

  • There are a lot of ways to combat loneliness like virtual visits with family, or giving back to your community.

  • Providence physicians recommend creating new social traditions to expand your network and encourage people to speak to a therapist if loneliness is overwhelming.

The holidays are a challenging time for many people.


A recent AARP survey found that 30% of adults report having felt lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years. It makes sense. After all, the holidays may be reminders of loved ones who have passed away, the challenges of getting to family events, or the struggle to buy gifts on a fixed income.

For many people, the holidays can feel like a struggle just to get through instead of a celebratory season. Add in a global pandemic and social distancing and loneliness could skyrocket.


But let’s bring some hope to the holidays. There are a variety of ways to combat loneliness, and here are just a few:

  • Opt-in for optimism. Focusing on positivity during the holidays can go a long way toward boosting your mood during the season. Recent studies have found that optimism has been linked to a longer life. While it’s normal to sometimes feel worried or sad, it’s beneficial to your health not to let these feelings overshadow the potential for enjoyment. One way to do that is with mindful awareness. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Perhaps you can participate in fewer but more rewarding activities with others. Try staying centered on the positive feelings that arise when you hear from loved ones or friends— even if there aren’t as many as you’ve had in the past. 
  • Do something for others. Helping people in need can boost your own holiday spirit. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or contribute a small gift to a local organization for a family in need. Tough times don’t take a holiday. Now is a great chance to work with a disaster-relief organization, offer to help an area school with holiday events, or serve at the local animal shelter.
  • Cherish the past. It’s a good thing to remember the good times. Entertain younger family members with stories about your holidays as a child. Unpack and put up decorations that hold special memories. Take time to look at family photos and start a journal of the amazing memories you have. Then there’s always the holiday movies and music you can turn to for lifting your spirits. You may find that instead of making you feel lonelier, sweet memories can be good company.
  • Keep in touch. Make technology your pal during the holidays and don’t allow distance to put a damper on reaching out to family and friends.  During COVID-19, people have gotten creative to stay in touch with loved ones and it’s a trend we can continue even as the world returns to normal. Zoom, Skype, or Facetime are great outlets that allow you to see and talk with loved ones. Of course, there’s always a place for good old phone calls. If you’re struggling to find someone you can speak with on a regular basis, try the Friendship Line. This is a “warm” line you can call for emotional support during the holidays or any time of year.
  • Create new social traditions. Celebrate the New Year by inviting family, friends, and friends-of-friends to your home or a community room. Make it a potluck to minimize your prep work and cost. Dress up in your fanciest bling. Play your favorite oldie-but-goodie songs. And dance the night away! Not only will you build up your own social network, you’ll help others who may also be facing a lonely holiday season.


Find a doctor

Loneliness at any time of the year can affect physical and mental health. If you need advice on how to curb loneliness, talk to your doctor. You can find a Providence mental health provider using our provider directory.

Find the physician that's right for you in our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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Related resources

Social Connection and the Holidays

Grief during the holidays: when derailing may put you back on track

Four Holiday (Emotional) Hazards and How to Combat Them with Self-Love

The Friendship Line

8 actions women can take to maintain health through the holidays

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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