Although we are surrounded by a multitude of people at Christmas why is it that we feel lonelier than ever before? Loneliness, is a feeling we may all feel at times but, what does this mean? Loneliness can be defined as, “a negative and distressing emotional state that arises from a discrepancy between one’s desired and achieved levels of social connectedness,” (Spithoven, Cacioppo, Goossens, & Cacioppo, 2019).
If you have ever felt this feeling you can appreciate it is not one we would actively choose to feel. So why is it at Christmas we may feel this more than ever? It is said there is usually an enormous amount of expectation surrounding Christmas; what gifts should we buy, who do we spend Christmas with and let us not forget processing the year and what we should have achieved by now. I am not sure about you, but it is pretty exhausting, and at points you just feel a little left out of the loop.
Loneliness is not just an individual problem, it is a public health problem and this year more than ever we all need to be aware of the implications this causes. This year may be the first year many of us will have to experience a very different way of celebrating. Many of us may not get to spend it with the people we usually do, due to limited number at group gatherings and let us not forget social distancing. Perhaps a few of our friends or relatives may be vulnerable and will not be joining us. This year how about we reach out to our loved ones and check in with each other. Simply asking someone how they are feeling can go a long way, a simple gesture is all it takes. A lot of us will be feeling the effects of this strange year and the best thing we can do it to discuss this with each other.
Asking a loved one how they are feeling and checking in every so often can be a huge sense of relief for yourself and for them. The majority of this year was spent isolated, physically and mentally therefore, this year more than ever, we need to become connected and what better time to do this.
Stef Gafa’ is a counsellor with Willingness who has a particular interest in trauma, attachment, domestic violence and the LGBT community.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2018). The growing problem of loneliness. The Lancet, 391,426.
Spithoven, A. W. M., Cacioppo, S., Goossens, L., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2019). Genetic Contributions to Loneliness and Their Relevance to the Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(3), 376–396. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618812684