With the holiday season upon us, it can be tough if we don't have an abundance of family and friends to celebrate with.
"Statistics show that one in four Australians report feeling lonely* at least one day a week, and unfortunately, as we come into the holiday season, many people start to feel lonely more regularly," Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab tells. "During this time, feelings of loneliness can be heightened because people can be made more aware of how alone they really feel."
People can easily get caught up comparing their own situation with others at this time, which can enhance lonely feelings. "People can truly be incredibly lonely during this time – whether it be because they live too far away from relatives, or the death of loved ones, or social isolation, loneliness is a feeling that can be amplified during the festive season," Noosha says.
If you find yourself feeling this way, Noosha provides us with same practical ways to cope.
Acknowledge and understand how you feel
The first step is acknowledging and understanding how you feel.
"Take some time to really understand how you feel and remember that you are not alone. Unfortunately, with loneliness there is a stigma and many people feel embarrassed to admit it or even talk about it," Noosha advises. "However, as statistics show, one in four Australians are feeling the same way, and it’s likely a lot more during the festive season."
Avoid comparing yourself to others
It can be all too easy to begin comparing yourself to others, especially with social media. Instead, Noosha suggests remembering that what you see online isn't always the way things truly are.
"Everyone’s life is different, and most people will go through various feelings during various times and it is ok to feel different," she says. "Try to avoid looking at social media if you find yourself comparing yourself to others (and remember that social media is usually just a highlight of peoples’ lives, not any of the bad stuff)."
Engage in small talk
Even if it's striking up a conversation at the shops, Noosha says the simple act of smiling and conversing with a neighbour or shopkeeps can help alleviate loneliness.
"Don’t be afraid to be the first to reach out and say hello – a small conversation in small talk can have you feeling socially connected to people again (even if it’s only in a small way)," she says.
If you're wondering what activities you can do during the festive season, Noosha suggests volunteering.
"There are lots of opportunities to volunteer during this time," she tells. "Most charities will run a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, and many others have weekly opportunities where you can volunteer your time."
Pick up the phone
Although having face-to-face contact with loved ones is the best way to connect with people, sometimes that isn't always possible if you live far away, so picking up the phone can still bring a smile.
"Don’t be afraid to call family to ask how they are enjoying their Christmas or connect with old friends who you might have lost touch with," Noosha says.
You may already have heard that exercise can make you feel better.
"Exercise can do wonders for our minds so if you can, put on your gym gear and take a walk," Noosha advises. "Use the time to smile at passers-by and relish in the feel good endorphins that exercise will naturally give you."
Speak to a professional
If you feel like you need extra support, Noosha suggests reaching out to a professional.
"Anyone from a GP through to a psychologist can help support you if you are feeling lonely during this time. Whilst loneliness itself isn’t a mental health issue, it can lead to other problems like anxiety or depression," she says. "Reach out to your local doctor or psychologist or consider an option like Lysn which provides access to psychologists via phone or online video chat."
*According to the Australian Loneliness Report, released in November 2018 by Swinburne University of Technology and the Australian Psychological Society