Home alone . . . for the holidays. The whole world is talking about time and festivities with family. Yet, in the midst of this connectedness with kin comes stunningly high depression and suicide rates.
|Thanksgiving feast for one.|
I was born into a big family - mom had five sisters and a close-knit family. We were always getting together for the holidays - right up until the time my kids reached high school. I was married for many years, as well, adding in-laws to the collection of people I called family.
Then, over the course of my early and middle adult life, I lost grandma, mom and my aunts. I divorced. My girls both joined the military - off they went, into the wild blue yonder. As a practicing CNM, I did not always get holidays off to fly to see family. The days that were once filled with laughter became start and silent.
Ten years ago, I was introduced to positive psychology through a course taught by Martin Seligman, PhD. It gave me some valuable tools that have made my holidays so much happier. I want to share some of my successes with you.
First, I recommend taking the free, research based strengths test from an organization called VIA (for Values in Action) Institute on Character. Our strengths are like our ultra high speed connections with the world - and we tend to have 5 strengths that are more predominant. Using these brings a "flow" - a loss of time/self - and a sense of inner happiness. The strengths survey is available here.
- Once you take the survey, then begin to think about ways to use your strengths as a way to celebrate the holiday. The VIA site has some good ideas on various uses for each strength.
- Perhaps it is easiest to give my personal example. Thanksgiving is one of my "alone" holidays. I have turned my depression around the lack of family into a day that I really savor. I pick a few of my favorite foods to make - I choose a strange combo of cornish game hens, stuffing the rest of my family would hate but that I love, Yorkshire pudding and pumpkin pie. I use my creativity to create a small, individualized gourmet meal.
- I also take a long walk with my camera - and gather photos of my community (a place where I feel deeply connected). Again, I am using my creativity and getting some exercise (both counter depression). I spend time reading books, playing on the web, and spoiling my cats. Then, after a late afternoon meal - I head to the Ouray Hot Springs for a couple hours. It is a good day - I look forward to it.
Second, be aware of the tendency to compare up . . . this can add to depression and helplessness. I have come to the realization that people are pretty unaware how they can make singles feel with all their talk of families. The assumption is that we all have family close. It can feel pretty painful.
- Instead - find ways to compare down. Perhaps even volunteer to serve the homeless . . . anything that helps you refocus on gratitude for what you have. My example here is donating to my hometown animal shelter because they just took in several cats who were ill and destined to be put down.
My third and final suggestion is to choose experiential events over material positions. That is - go for a trip someplace you have always wanted to go. Or go for a walk. Something that allows you to experience life and taps into your strengths! If you can afford to visit family on some holidays . . . do it! I do get to spend Christmas with my daughter and granddaughter most years . . . and I love that.
And, I have also learned to savor the "home alone" holidays as a way to savor many of the good things in my life.
If you spend holidays alone and have suggestions - please post them here. I would love to learn from you!