Many of us are on countdown until Christmas with only 5 days left. This time of year can be exciting with lots of anticipation. Children are excited for the arrival of Santa, grandparents are feeling blessed to experience a grandchild's first Christmas, and perhaps you are excited to have someone near and dear to you come home for the holidays, but not everyone has such joyous moments at this time of year. Some are having to face the first holiday season without that loved one, others may be battling an illness or caring for someone that is ill, still many simply find this time of year to have all sorts of pressures and expectations attached to it that we try so hard to live up to each year.
If you are feeling not so merry this year, you are not alone. Many Canadians experience feelings of loneliness, sadness and in more serious situations, depression. In fact, Statistics Canada conducted a survey in November 2021 that found 13% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported always or often feeling lonely.
True human connection is vital to our mental and emotional health, and the last couple of years have definitely made this challenging in many ways, but there are things that you can do to alleviate feelings of loneliness and get yourself back on track to better mental health.
I am not one that meditates. This brain just never seems to quit overthinking everything! But I did come across an article by Deepak Chopra MD, whom I respect very much, and what he had to share in relation to loneliness and meditation really resonated with me. I have done similar mindfulness exercises to feel better and have found that they really do work.
Chopra states that 'healing loneliness requires more than simply seeking out company.' This makes sense as I have often felt alone in a crowd or with others at a social event. He goes on to say that "the root of loneliness isn’t the absence of other people but an inner absence – you don’t have a centred awareness of your true self. When you’re established in the awareness of your true self, you feel lovable and connected, whether you’re in a packed stadium or spending a quiet afternoon by yourself. At the most basic level, the company you enjoy the most is your own. Loneliness is the condition of feeling negative about your own company and therefore requiring other people to fill an inner lack."
The first step in healing loneliness is to practice self compassion. When you are feeling lonely or sad, be kind to yourself in that moment instead of putting pressure and guilt upon yourself with thoughts of how you 'should' feel.
Here is a simple meditation practice below that Deepak Chopra shares that you can try pretty much anywhere:
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Now gently place your attention on your heart, in the centre of your chest. As you breathe in and out naturally, keep your attention there. Allow any feelings and sensations to arise and pass. If your attention drifts away, gently bring it back to your heart as soon as you notice what has happened.
After a few minutes, open your eyes. Rather than immediately jumping into your next activity, take a few moments to notice how you feel after the meditation. For the next half hour or so, observe yourself to see if you remain centred.
Almost everyone will find that the effects of this simple meditation linger for a while. Colours seem a bit more vivid, or sounds seem clearer. There’s a sense of calm inside and less tendency to be pulled out into activity. If you meditate twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes, you will start to learn the difference between being centred in your true self and being distracted by the drama of the ego.
For more information on how to combat loneliness during the holidays, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website. Click on the link below to discover five ways you can care for your mental health during the holidays:
Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to feel the way you feel without guilt. I hope that you find time to relax and do the things you enjoy over the holidays. Take care of you! :)
Tammy Lautner, RSW