Sejal Jain, 45, lives alone in an apartment close to her workplace in Bengaluru. Unlike previous years, she hasn’t been able to make any plans for the holiday season because her friends are either travelling or are busy with their family commitments. Jain admits to feeling ‘down’—although she is not a ‘party person’, the fact that she has “no one to share the festive cheer with” has made it tough. “Loneliness is not new to me,” she says, “ but after my parents passed away, festival and holiday seasons have become especially tough.”
Renuka Gavrani, author of The Art of Being Alone says, “In a country like India, where festivals mean getting together, finding yourself alone in your apartment can be daunting.” Several people like Jain are battling festive or holiday loneliness. holiday loneliness.
Shilpa Shivamallappa, a Bengaluru-based life coach and therapist, says people who are far away from their families may find it especially difficult at this time of the year. “They may have not been able to go home because of work commitments or other constraints. They may feel the loneliness because they don’t enjoy their own company,” she says.
While feeling lonely and being alone are two different things, there are times when our hearts crave for people who are home to us. Experts suggest some simple strategies to lighten the feeling of being alone.
Do something for others
Research suggests that performing small acts of kindness towards people can help people feel less solitary. By giving your time or care to others in need, your attention is drawn outward. Shivamallappa says loneliness could stem from a sense of feeling one lacks something. “You could look at someone else’s life, or in this case, their festive plans, and feel things are better for them. That can be removed by making yourself feel superior, not in the context of money or arrogance, but by putting yourself in a giving position and... doing something for others.”
Celebrate with yourself
Indulge yourself a little during this time of the year. Gavrani says that while people miss their loved ones during holiday and festive seasons, it is important to make an effort to acknowledge one’s own presence. “No one can replace family and friends, I agree, but here is the truth: Just because you don’t have your loved ones around you, it does not mean you need to ignore ‘you’,” Gavrani explains.
“You need to understand that your heart craves love, especially during this reason, so instead of letting yourself drown in a pool of memories of your loved ones and making yourself feel lonelier, you need to acknowledge your presence. You are here. So why should you not celebrate the festivals and holidays with yourself?” she says.
Indulge in alone-time
When there’s more time on hand, see it as an opportunity to do what you like. Take a walk, read a book, bake a cake (and eat it too), go on a road trip… in short, do something that will bring you joy. “You can do some colouring, cooking, gardening, shopping or anything that catches your fancy,” Shivamallappa suggests.
The concept of me-time is especially beneficial for those who have experienced deep loss. “We suggest meditation where you sit in a place calmly for 5-10 minutes with eyes closed. By closing your eyes, which are the windows to outer environment, you will get clarity eventually and be able to settle your thoughts,” she says
Tap into your creativity
Studies have shown that participating in creative activities like arts and crafts might be linked to reduced loneliness. Jain enrolled in a pottery course this month and after just two classes, she feels lighter and less morose. “I look forward to the classes because for one hour, I am completely engrossed in what I am doing. I have no choice but to be mindful of how I use my hands.”
Gavrani is all for celebrating life and being grateful. being grateful. Holiday and festive seasons, she believes, call for slowing down, acknowledging what you have in your life, being grateful for your blessings and celebrating. “No matter your religion or the festival you celebrate, the bottom line for all of them is the same – celebrating life. Celebrate the developments you have made personally and professionally. Celebrate the blessings you have. Eat good food and feel the sweetness of life,” says Gavrani.
Make peace with your loneliness
The hard part about feeling lonely during any festive season is that people believe they are the only ones in that position. Experts suggest having frequent reminders that there are others feeling just as lonely. They also recommend “acknowledging” the feeling of loneliness. When Jain told her therapist that she felt so lonely on Diwali that she “just lay on the floor”, the therapist asked her what happened next. “I got up after half an hour, washed my face and then went for a walk,” she recalls. “I remembered feeling comforted and my therapist said it was because I had allowed myself to feel the loneliness,” Jain observes.
Jayanthi Madhukar is a Bengaluru-based writer.