Not lonely this Christmas

Home Alone: 10 Ways To Guarantee You Won’t Be Lonely This Christmas

9 mins

Whether you’re an expat, thousands of miles from family or friends, or just don’t want to follow the crowd this Christmas, here’s how to survive the festivities alone without being lonely

Under Beth’s Christmas tree in Dubai there are three special presents. They’re not from her mum and dad who are in Cheshire in the UK, nor are they from her son Joe, who works in North Carolina, USA. They’re from herself because this year British-born Beth will be spending Christmas Day alone – completely by choice and yet she knows she won’t be lonely.

‘I’ve had a few invitations to go round to people’s homes and celebrate with them and their families, but to be honest, I’ve worked so hard all year, I’m taking the day off, having a lie-in and I’m going to chill out on my own,’ says 49-year-old Beth, a single team leader. ‘I just need some quiet time and what better day to have that than Christmas Day?’

not lonely this Christmas. woman on sofa with mug of hot chocolate watching Home Alone on tv

Beth knows that as December 25th dawns, she may have some pangs of longing for her parents and Joe, but thanks to her experience a few years ago, she’s confident she’ll handle the emotions that will come up and won’t be lonely.

‘I spent Christmas Day alone once before, just after I moved to Dubai,’ she says. ‘I was quite lonely back then, and I realised how important it was to change my thinking and see the day as a gift, rather than a punishment. Otherwise, I’d just mope around, feeling sorry for myself and begrudging other people having fun with their families.’

Not Lonely This Christmas

Experts agree Beth has hit the nail on the head – it’s all in the thinking and planning, if you’re spending a day as emotive as Christmas Day alone. Let’s face it – the romanticised Christmas message is everywhere. Posters, television and adverts are full of people surrounded by friends and family, the bigger and jollier the group, the better. 

And if you know of someone who’s alone at Christmas, you’re urged to invite them round. Recent research by Age UK, a British charity for older people, has discovered that 2.3 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with this Christmas, and 1.6 million people in the UK find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year because they’re left feeling vulnerable and lonely.

lots of people feel lonely at Christmas

Dubai-based life coach Amanda Davies says many people have a ‘chocolate box’ view of the festive period and can be disappointed if their Christmas doesn’t match up.

‘Everything we see, read or hear tells us that if we are alone at Christmas, we’re a Billy-No-Mates. People pity you because they think you have no friends and are lonely. Being alone at Christmas is seen in a very negative, disempowering way.’

‘Christmas has become so centred around family and friends, more so than any other time of the year,’ she says. ‘It’s the time that we’re concerned that loved ones are not going to be alone. If nothing else, we pop in to see how they are. Do we do this on 27 November, 15 January and 5 May? No, not really, certainly not as much as we do at Christmas.’

Rachael Alexander, a UK-based coach who’s global training director for Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®, and works with clients from all over the world, adds: ‘Everything we see, read or hear tells us that if we are alone at Christmas, we’re a Billy-No-Mates. People say: ‘Oh he’s a loner, he’s on his own this Christmas,’ or they pity you because they think you have no friends and are lonely. Being alone at Christmas is seen in a very negative, disempowering way.

‘We’re pack animals and at our core, we’re hard-wired to be social creatures and with our biological tribe. Breaking away from our pack means we’re on our own. It can be scary.

‘But we must remember Christmas is a social construct. It’s an idea that has been put into society and we get pressured to do the expected thing, which is celebrate with friends and family. For many, unfortunately, this means spending the day with people we don’t really want to spend time with. We put up with pain and misery just because it’s Christmas Day.’

According to Rachael, there are two types of people who choose to spend Christmas alone. ‘First, there are those who are quite fearful and victim-like,’ she explains. ‘They might have a bad memory of a Christmas past. They may even have lost somebody at Christmas. They see the day from a negative point of view and want to get through it as quickly as possible. 

‘The other type of person is someone like Beth, who’s happy to be a lone wolf. She’s not fearful of upsetting anyone and she has no wish to be chief entertainer for other people. She doesn’t put others’ needs above her own and she’s confident she can entertain herself.’

‘For introverts the idea of spending time in a high-energy, noisy gathering can be draining and stressful. These people may need space and they’d rather spend Christmas Day reading quietly, going on walks or being alone in nature’

Among the expat community in Dubai, there’s a sense of family around Christmas, says Amanda. ‘People tend to join friends, acquaintances, colleagues, sometimes groups they don’t even know, who are staying in the city for Christmas,’ she says. ‘We’re all so far away from home and we try to look after one another. Christmas can magnify feelings of loneliness and, in the case of expats, being so far away from family.

‘But for introvert personality types the idea of spending time in a high-energy, noisy gathering can be draining and stressful. These people may need space and time to recharge, and they would rather spend Christmas Day reading quietly, going on long walks or being alone in nature.’

So, if we find ourselves alone, how can we spend Christmas Day so that we’re not lonely and we emerge empowered and invigorated come Boxing Day? Rachael and Amanda share their tips:

Ask the Joy Question

Decide what activities would bring you joy on Christmas Day, advises Rachael. ‘You might want to get up early and practise sunrise yoga on the beach or go for a long walk while the beaches and parks are quiet,’ she says. ‘You might choose to stay in your PJs all day and watch Netflix or a biographical DVD or sit and think about your goals for 2024.’

Reframe Your Thinking

Try and focus on constructive, positive thoughts, says Amanda. ‘Don’t put pressure on yourself to conform to expectations,’ she says. ’Reframe feelings of sadness and anxiety about being alone and practise gratitude and mindfulness rather than worrying about potentially feeling lonely. Do some self-care. Pamper yourself. Run a nice bubble bath, have home facials and a manicure and wear comfy clothes that you don’t normally wear.’

Plan Christmas dinner

Work out what you’d love to eat and drink, suggests Rachael, and get organised. ‘If you’d love to languish in bed with smashed avocado for breakfast, get a shopping list done and head to the shops,’ she says. ‘If you can’t be bothered to cook and fancy cheese on toast in front of Netflix, give yourself permission to have an easy day.’

Video Call Your Family

Reach out to your family and friends to chat, recommends Amanda. ‘You may not be the only one who’s alone, and it might cheer them up to hear from you,’ she says. ‘If you’re celebrating, you could sing Christmas carols to each other, or have a virtual toast or quiz. WhatsApp video calls and Zoom calls are free so there’s no excuse not to connect, wherever your loved ones are.’

Treat Yourself

Treat yourself to presents if you're alone over Christmas so you don't feel lonely. Pictured is beautiful woman in santa hat surrounded by small, wrapped presents

Splash out on yourself, says Rachael. ‘Buy yourself some lovely presents, maybe things you wouldn’t normally get yourself, wrap them and put them under your tree if you have one,’ she suggests. ‘You might even put little messages on your tags. Somone I know writes: ‘You’re looking amazing’ and ‘You’re rocking it!’

Try Something New

Challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done before, urges Amanda. ‘You might bake and ice a cake, take up a craft, write a short story, do a 10 km walk in a place you’ve never visited or you might do a tricky jigsaw puzzle, read historical fiction or watch a different type of film to normal.’

Remember FOG

Don’t feel the need to invite people round to fill the gap, says Rachael. ‘Sometimes, when we hear of others being alone, our automatic reaction is to invite them to join us,’ she says. ‘If you make your choices out FOG – fear, obligation or guilt, they will never bring you joy or peace. Keep the day for you if that’s what you really want.’

Retreat to Advance

women meditating alone at Christmas so she isn't lonely

Spiritual people may want to spend the day in solitude, says Amanda. ‘They may opt to reflect and spend time in a meditative, contemplative environment, like a meditation group or go on a retreat,’ she says. ‘It can be the perfect time to recharge batteries and rest and recuperate.’

Ditch Social Media

Be aware of the myths on social media, advises Rachael. ‘Facebook and other social media will be full of people posting about their wonderful Christmas and they may make you wish you weren’t alone,’ she says. ‘But remember on social media people are incongruent. Sometimes what people post isn’t the true picture.’

Ask for help

If you struggle with being alone, remember help is at hand, says Amanda. ‘Seek support from helplines, like MIND, The Silver Line, Age UK and the Samaritans. In Dubai, there are the Lighthouse Arabia and Al Jalila Foundation, among others who will offer help and support.’

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