#Loneliness #HolidaySeason #DiegoCagara #SpotlightNews
ALBANY — Holidays are usually associated with spending time with loved ones, traveling to be with family, and reconnecting with friends. At a time where the festive season presents opportunities to socialize and catch up with people, it is still possible for someone to feel lonely while the year is about to end.
Loneliness, however, is generally found to impact many Americans, according to a study conducted by global health service company Cigna earlier this year. They had put out a national survey where over 20,000 American adults, aged 18 and older, filled out a 20-item questionnaire, asking if they feel lonely, what factors they think contribute to loneliness, and if they believe their existing relationships—including family, friends and romantic interests—are meaningful to them.
Among the findings;
• 46 percent reported sometimes or always feeling alone;
• 27 percent rarely or never feel like people truly understand them;
• 43 percent reported feeling isolated from other people
• 43 percent answered that they believe their relationships do not feel meaningful;
Having the right amount of sleep and exercise all correlate with a lower risk of loneliness
But first, let’s define loneliness
According to Albany-based clinical social worker and therapist Courtney L. Butler of Empire State Behavioral Health, she sees lonely people as having a general disconnect from other people, which can be accompanied by feelings of sadness and disappointment.
Similarly, Dolores Cimini, the assistant director of the University at Albany’s Counseling Center and a licensed psychologist, said that loneliness is a state of mind in which an individual feels disconnected from others.
When asked if there is a difference between feeling lonely and alone, the two offered similar takes. Butler said, “People can be alone like when going to the movies, traveling and still feel connected to other people, and feel they have a good quality of relationships. But loneliness has to do more with disconnect with other people and from oneself.”
Cimini said that an individual can feel content when being alone. “Sometimes, we got to be alone to think about our lives and meditate, and be solitary for our health,” she said. “Feeling lonely is different in that there’s a perception that a connection with a group or person is absent or void.”
Why lonely during the holidays?
When it comes to the holiday season, a person may feel disconnected from others, many reasons of which may be beyond their control.
“Some people can’t travel to visit family and friends because they don’t have enough money, or they are estranged from them,” said Cimini, even bringing up how many international University at Albany can’t afford to fly back to their home countries for the holidays. “Or they may not even have family at all.”
Butler said that during the holidays, people are bombarded with images of happy families getting together, getting groceries, and preparing their houses and dinner tables with decor and feasts, ideas of which are reinforced through the media. They may appear in advertisements, on TV, the internet, and even be accompanied by holiday music, lyrics and sometimes videos of which, in turn, further reinforce the idea of being together and reconnecting with loved ones for the season.
“That all just reinforces the disconnect lonely people already feel and I think it’s also because their experience is in such contrast to what we traditionally consider the holiday time as,” added Butler. “Holidays are a time for connection and those who get lonely can get triggered by that.”
In turn, Cimini used Bing Crosby’s 1943 classic song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as an example of projecting the idea of someone wanting to travel back home to spend time with family. “Look at the lyrics: You can plan on me / Please have snow and mistletoe / And presents on the tree,” she said. “It’s imagining that you have a place to come home to and the presents mean that there are people who care about you and are waiting for you to return.”
Such a concept can affect lonely people. Also, even when a person attends a holiday party or family gathering, that person may feel lonely if he or she does not have a meaningful relationship or connection with anyone else there, according to Cimini, which could worsen their already-present feeling of loneliness.
Cimini suggested that a person redefine what that feeling means to oneself, “like using ‘being alone’ to make oneself promote self well-being, be productive and do things they enjoy that are solitary in nature like going to watch a movie, reading, doing yoga, listening to music, and relaxing. These things are solitary but very much supportive.” Also, one should get rid of “automatic thoughts”—defined by Cimini as negative and unproductive thoughts like someone thinking he or she has no friends, no connections or feels like a loser—and instead think, “Those things are not true, I’m a worthwhile person.”
She recommended that a person should look for new connections like joining a group with similar interests like a club or spiritual group; engage in new activities; or even seek professional help like a therapist. “It’s a matter of reframing one’s experience and if experiences can be reframed, there’s opportunity for learning and promotion of self well-being,” she said.
Even making eye contact with people and saying hello helps in someone’s day-to-day life, according to Butler. “Just that little connection with people can sometimes alleviate loneliness and could also lead to people striking up a conversation,” she said. “Finding activities in the community that one really enjoys like softball is a great way to engage in an activity and meet like-minded people.”
Both concluded that addressing loneliness is important, regardless of whether it occurs year-round or just during the holiday season.
“It’s so important overall for an improved quality of life, deep meaningful connections with other people, feeling understood and being part of something,” Butler said. “When one is not having those things, it can negatively impact your health.”
Cimini connected loneliness with how caring about one’s mental health is paramount, “Just know that you’re not alone as loneliness is perhaps among the most common emotions in human beings. Transform loneliness into strategies that will support your well-being and build connections, no matter what time of year it is.”