Are you feeling down about being single this holiday season and wishing you could just go into suspended animation until January 1st... or should we make that February 15th? You are not alone, my friends. “Newly single daters feel especially down around the holidays, because everything about the holidays seemingly centers on the traditional view of family togetherness,” says Leah Klungness, psychologist and coauthor of The Complete Single Mother: Reassuring Answers To Your Most Challenging Concerns. “The media images of happy families gathered about the Christmas tree or dinner table, parents lovingly laying out toys, couples embracing in a romantic setting — all of these examples create the impression that everyone else belongs to a loving family and are certainly half of a loving and committed couple,” she says. That makes it easy for you to feel like you’re the biggest exception to that on the whole planet.
But you don’t have to feel low during this holiday season. We’ve come up with 10 tips for beating those winter blues (or at least keeping them from beating you) so you can socialize and enjoy the holidays without having a significant other by your side:
1. Make some changes to your usual routine. “A big life change, like suddenly finding yourself single, allows you to redefine the holidays more to your personal liking rather than constantly needing to respond to the demands of others,” Klungness notes. “If you hate to bake, then why do it? Are you flooded with paperwork at your job? This might explain why you describe holiday cards as ‘another big job I need to get out of the way.’” This year, don’t do anything just because you think you should. Instead, do what you truly enjoy.
2. Plan ways to mix and jingle with other singles. “After I left my husband, I wasn’t looking forward to the holidays,” recalls Nancy Prefontaine of Scottsdale, AZ. “But another newly single friend and I hosted a holiday mixer for all our other single friends. It was fun — and there was no feeling sorry for ourselves because no couples were allowed. By the end, we were all in the holiday spirit.”
3. Embrace gratitude for the blessings you already have in your life. “Make a gratitude list of all the great things that are in your life right now,” notes Diana Kirschner, psychologist, love coach and author of Opening Love’s Door: The Seven Lessons. “Make a payback visit where you go to someone who helped you a lot and give them a thank you gift. Research shows that these steps help create happiness.”
4. Focus on reconnecting with friends and family. “My wife had the kids last Christmas, so I went home to my parents and spent the week catching up with old friends and family who also were home for the holidays,” says Thom Englund of Boston, MA. “It was nice to be able to focus on people I don’t get to see much and re-establish those relationships.”
5. Do something good for others to give your self-esteem an extra boost. Volunteer during the holidays at places where people worse off than yourself need you the most, such as a nursing home, soup kitchen or animal shelter. “It’s a great way to counterbalance any blue feelings you may have,” says Steve Kemble, star of the Style Network’s Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition. “Additionally, helping others is always a wonderful way to make you feel better about yourself, while at the same time making others feel better about themselves. There is no better feeling than brightening someone else’s life.”
6. Give yourself the gift of a much-needed holiday vacation. “After my husband died, I just couldn’t face our home during the holidays,” says Suze Hernandez of Fresno, CA. “So I decided to give myself the gift of travel. I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Hawaii, and the escape was just what I needed to start the next year full of hope instead of despair.”
7. Exercise to improve your mood. “It’s important to get sufficient exercise,” says Judy Bolton, therapist and coauthor of When Did You Know...He Was Not The One? “It has been scientifically documented that exercise stimulates the endorphins, which send a calming effect throughout our bodies.” Plus, you might meet someone attractive (and available!) at the gym.
8. Unclutter your heart and mind by cleaning out your home. “My wife died around the holidays, so I spent that time going through her things — and mine,” explains Carl Means of Knoxville, TN. “Now, I use the end of the year to clean out my closets and cabinets. I get a feeling of accomplishment and clarity. And since I give most of the stuff to local charities, I know I’m doing something good for people who are less fortunate. That boosts my spirits, too.”
9. List all of the things you love most about yourself. “For my friends who insist that staying in at home will make them feel better, I always recommend that they write down 25 positive things about themselves,” Kemble says. “Trust me, you will end up feeling so much better about yourself.”
10. Indulge in a few guilty pleasures. “Over Christmas vacation, I take advantage of all the guilty pleasures that my ex despised,” admits Sarah Dukes of Chicago. “I catch up on soaps, check in on the Twilight Zone marathon, and whip out my K-Tel 1970s music compendium. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re doing something this ridiculous.”
Following this advice will help you keep the holiday blues at bay so you can enjoy the end of year and move ahead with a positive outlook... and quite possibly be ready for an amazing new romance in 2014.
Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer whose work also appears in Go magazine and The Los Angeles Business Journal.