Three out of four people say they have felt the sorrow of loneliness at some point in their lives.
The holidays and the emphasis on family, friends and good cheer can make this an especially difficult time.
There is an inclination for loneliness to spike at particular ages, according to psychologists. A San Diego study looking at 340 adults found people in their late 20’s, mid 50’s, and late 80’s are especially vulnerable to pangs of loneliness.
To combat the feeling, Houston psychologist Dr. Laurence Abrams suggests something as simple as turning on the TV. “With the television or a movie you can project yourself into it and identify with the characters and get some reaction from that, and there are a lot of good Christmas movies on that may bring a few tears but you won’t feel bad about that,” he suggests.
And that’s the point. Loneliness is how you feel, not a measure of how many people you know or how many friends you have. Married people can feel very lonely, as can busy popular executives who appear to have it all. Loneliness is an emotional response, not a social one, and it’s especially acute this time of year. “At Christmastime when there are memories of good times, and memories of other people and love and affection, you can feel particularly lonely if you are missing that person or that affection,” says Dr. Abrams.
The people best able to cope with loneliness, according to the study, possess what they call the four traits of wisdom – empathy, compassion, control over emotions, self-reflection.