For some people the holidays aren’t so merry.
Many people suffer from loneliness during the holiday season, elders in particular.
The end of the year can spotlight painful memories of times past, family dysfunction, or simply the fact that one is alone.
Some studies estimate as many as 1 in 3 seniors say they’re lonely.
“Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death,” according to the National Institute of Aging.
People who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk.
“If you (or someone you know) are all alone for the holidays, it’s important to remember that human connection is critical,” says Christine Guarrasi, LICSW at the Center for Healthy Aging at Addison Gilbert Hospital and Lahey Outpatient Clinic, Danvers.
Guarrasi offered some tips to help beat the holiday blues if you happen to be a bit lonely.
- Connect with others by scheduling phone calls. You can Skype or FaceTime, attend activities at your local senior center, volunteer at church or a soup kitchen or join a free holiday meal at a local church or synagogue. You can also visit a person without family who is in a long-term care facility. Even activities like writing holiday cards, attending a choir performance or driving to view holiday lights can make someone feel more engaged and less lonely.
- Practice Gratitude. Writing down three things you’re grateful for every day.
- Play soothing holiday music to engage your senses.
- Let go of resentment. Resentment is an emotion that can weigh on you. Acknowledging things you don’t have control over and forgiving others can be healing.
- Keep up healthy habits. Be careful of over-indulgences like drinking, eating and spending too much. Be sure to stay hydrated.
- Get physical. There are plenty of exercise videos on YouTube that include guided meditations or easy chair exercises. You can walk in place.
- Go for a walk, outside if it’s warm enough.
- Relive memories. Watch old family movies or television shows you used to like years ago. Go through your old picture albums. Honor your lost loved ones. Light a candle or donate in their name. Participate in a tradition you used to share with a loved one who is no longer around.
For more tips on how to combat loneliness this holiday season, reach out to the Center for Healthy Aging.