Not Close With Your Family? Here's How To Have a Joyous and Connected Holiday Season
Last year, some of us celebrated the holidays apart from our families for the first time. COVID has brought with it many changes, some of them arguably positive (like increased flexibility to work from home), some difficult (such as the realization of vastly different political and social views between family and friends), and some horrible (obviously, the health implications of a global pandemic). However, for some of us, celebrating the holidays without family members isn't exclusively due to COVID. In addition to so many of us living in different areas than our families of origin, some of us simply don't have close bonds with the people we grew up around. Sometimes, this can cause loneliness.
If you're not close with your family members, the holidays can be a difficult time. This is doubly true if you don't have a close circle of friends to call upon. But make no mistake, if this sounds like your situation, you're not alone — there are thousands of other people going through the same struggles you are. We sat down with Irad Eichler, founder of Circles, a website that connects people who are sharing similar struggles, like heartbreak, grief, or loneliness. Here are some of Eichler's tips for coping — and even thriving! — during the holiday season when you're not planning on spending it with your family, for one reason or another.
Don't Fall For "Perfect Families" On Social MediaPhoto by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
The first VERY important step to having a joyous holiday season when you're going it alone is to stop believing the narrative that others' family situations are perfect, Eichler says.
"Remember people only post a moment in time, and only the moments when they look their happiest and best."
In addition to the fact that everything you see on social media is curated for the 'gram, it's also important to remember that by focusing on what others have and you lack, you risk failing to see the great things at play in your own life.
"These holiday periods can become a time of focusing on who and what we don't have, rather than who or what we do, and can cause a negative spiral into depressing and dreadful feelings of inadequacy," says Eichler.
Gratitude is the reason for the season, after all. So instead of only seeing the negative, try some gratitude journal prompts to help you focus on what's actually really wonderful about your life right now.
Make An Effort To Deepen New ConnectionsPhoto by Joel Muniz on Unsplash
While it may seem like everyone has friends and family to spend time with during the holiday season, that doesn't mean no one is available for deepening a blossoming relationship or new friendship.
"Make a list of people you can or would like to connect with, and try to reach out to at least one of them," advises Eichler.
Reaching out doesn't have to mean a big plan or an hour-long conversation. Even a quick text letting a friendly coworker know you're thinking about them can go a long way toward deepening the relationship and moving it in the direction of closer friendship.
Don't have an acquaintance in mind? Then it's time to make new acquaintances. What's more in line with the Christmas spirit than attending a Meetup or event full of people eager to make new friends?
"Join groups with similar interests to yours, such as hiking, baking, or games. Push your boundaries and be brave - you might find new people who have much in common with you."
Give BackPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
The holiday season is a great time to focus on giving back to your community, and coincidentally, acts of generosity and kindness are known to reduce loneliness and help people feel happier. One study found that knowing a few of your neighbors and doing small acts of kindness for them — such as cheering them up, listening to them, mowing their lawn, providing advice about local business recommendations and job opportunities, and chatting over the fence — was statistically correlated with feeling less lonely and having a lower risk of depression.
Helping out elderly neighbors can be a particularly gratifying way to give back.
"Notice older lonely people in your neighborhood or community who might have no family at all, and offer to help them," says Eichler. "These can become mutually meaningful connections, and help you 'adopt' a grandparent."
Connect With Others OnlinePhoto by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Finally, use the Internet for its highest and best purpose: to connect people. Whether you're using Meetup to find in-person events, digital forums for having conversations about special interests, or programs like Circle for getting support from others in your situation, the opportunities to create new connections are practically endless.
"There are many interest groups that can be found digitally, where or any person can connect with others in the same life stage, going through the same challenges, or who would like to explore the same interests," Eichler states. "Meaningful connections can be formed easily in these circumstances. The Internet enables us to find and connect to people all over the world who fit this, and to whom we can become more easily attached, as we are able to find people with the exact interests that energize us."
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