How to Be Alone Without Being Lonely, Regardless of Your Relationship Status

Photo: Getty Images/Mallika Wiriyathitipirn
Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin once said (or rather, crooned), “Nobody wants to be lonely.” And that sentiment rings especially true around the holidays. Whether you’re single and wishing you had a cuffing-season partner, or you’re in a committed relationship and various obligations (or worse, family drama) are keeping you apart, the vibe of loneliness can be pervasive.

It’s even harder to avoid these feels when everything about the holiday season—like cheesy cable movies and nonstop seasonal music—practically screams, “Isn’t love the best?!? You should be in it, and it should be picture perfect—don't forget!” Psychotherapist Lise Schiffer, LCSW, validates that this stress indeed feels very real. “There is enormous social pressure to feel cheerful and social during the holidays,” says.

It's also easy to feel like everyone around you is smitten, enjoying warm and cozy feelings of love—even if that's totally not the case. (Spoiler: It's probably not the case.) “Many people find the holidays quite stressful, but it can feel like everyone else is invited to the party except you,” Schiffer says.

While loneliness isn't unique to this time of year, the annual festive vibe does have a way of highlighting what might be missing in a person's life. As New York City psychologist Gregory Kushnick, PsyD, explains, “Much like the experience of going to someone's wedding, we view our holiday experience as a reflection of where we stand in our love life.” In other words, we often use this time of year as a barometer of where we are, or where we think we should be—and that’s a lot of pressure to add to the pile of holiday cards to fill out and presents to wrap.

But, it's all real and true, so how the heck do you not only survive the feelings of loneliness, but thrive—and dare we say—even enjoy the most wonderful time of the year? Check out tips below to rise above your loneliness, no matter your relationship status.

How keep loneliness from putting a damper on your holiday-season bliss.

How to not be lonely regardless of your relationship status
Photo: Getty Images/Shestock

How to feel less alone if you’re single

“If you are fresh off a breakup, do your best to frame the holiday season as a time of self-healing and self-discovery,” Dr. Kushnick says. To do this, he suggests laying off the cocktails (even the healthy-ish ones), casual hookups, and cyberstalking your ex. Those things may feel fulfilling in the moment, but that moment will pass.

Instead, make a new, happy memory while distracting yourself from whatever feels lacking in your life.  “Find at least one person who knows you well and build a simple holiday memory together,” Dr. Kushnick says. It can be as no-frills as watching Bridget Jones’s Diary, putting on a DIY face mask, and having a good laugh with a friend, says therapist Valentina Verani, LMHC.

“Find at least one person who knows you well and build a simple holiday memory together.” — Gregory Kushnick, PsyD

Another important thing to remember through all of this: Being single is A-okay! Lots of awesome people, just like you, are. As Schiffer reminds us, "Not having a romantic partner does not mean you don't have love and companionship in your life.”

How to feel less alone, even if you’re coupled up

Singletons don’t have the market cornered on having a blue Christmas; even coupled-up revelers face some serious (and sometimes sad) obstacles this time of year. But there are ways to work through it.

Dr. Kushnick says that if you're separated (by physical or emotional distance) from your S.O., you can use the opportunity to engage in self care, which can improve your relationship. “You can create something, like a group of journal entries related to reflecting on the relationship and what you want to improve or do together.”

If you're not in the same place over the holidays, journaling this way can remind you just how much you are connected. When you're feeling more confident in your union, perhaps you'll be able to reimagine the space as a positive thing: It allows you to have separate experiences that you tell one another about. “You both bring new experiences into the relationship, and you’ll have lots to talk about when you’re reunited,” Schiffer says.

How to feel less alone...period

Self care is key for everyone, Verani says—whether it’s taking that hot yoga class, getting a mani-pedi, going to your weekly therapy sesh, or petting your beloved pup. Doing these things can make you feel better about your situation, whatever it may be. And most importantly, you'll feel better about you.

The holidays can feel like its about everyone else, but you’re just as worthy of treats and presents, even if they’re from you to you.

The holidays can seem dedicated to celebrating everyone else, but you’re just as worthy of treats and presents, even if they’re from you to you. After all, who knows your taste better than you?

“You are the most important person in your life and the relationship from which all others stem," Schiffer says. "If you can enjoy your own company and be kind and compassionate to yourself, you will be a much better friend and partner to others. And remember, nobody is happy all the time and we all occasionally feel lonely. This is normal. You are okay.”

Here's how to actually help a loved one who seems depressed over the holidays. And here's why anxiety can seem worse at night.

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