Jagdish Khubchandani (copy) (copy)

Khubchandani

Marc Ransford (copy)

Ransford

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, we are pounded daily with advertising telling us to buy for others, drink festively at holiday parties and sing about Santa and his reindeer.

For many Americans, the season is lonely. No matter how many times we hear about the jolly old elf, we can’t help but think about lonely days filled by lonely nights under the bright lights at every holiday celebration.

We are a nation of lonely people.

Data shows the average household size in the U.S. has declined in the past decade, causing a 10 percent increase in people living alone. A recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that about a fourth of the U.S. population — and 28 percent of older adults — live by themselves.

We can survive and thrive during the holidays by taking advantage of the season. Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain a routine. Holidays in this pandemic shouldn’t disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, working hours and daily activities.
  • Engage in activities that focus on your health, training, diet, physical activity levels and health habits, as well as reassessing your work.
  • Cook for yourself and others in need. Add fruits, vegetables, vitamins and proteins to your diet. (Most U.S. adults don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables). Eat two or three meals a day.
  • Go for a walk or exercise at home. Go out in nature as much as possible. Only half of adults today get enough exercise.
  • Don’t let anxiety or being alone lead to binge eating or alcohol and drug use. Don’t oversleep, but try to sleep at least seven hours a day.
  • Reassess your skills and training — consider taking an online course, pursuing certification, undergoing training or personality development or learning a language. Short courses can be done during holidays.
  • Engage in spring cleaning, clear clutter and donate household items. Home clutter can harbor pollutants, lead to infections and result in unhygienic spaces.
  • Being alone shouldn’t translate to an unhealthy life on social media — you’re likely to overconsume information and take away time from friends and family.
  • Reach out to others. Consider providing for and helping those at risk or marginalized (e.g., the elderly, disabled and homeless; survivors of natural disasters; and people living in shelters). Find someone in the neighborhood who needs help.
  • Check your email and phone contacts. Check on your friends’ and family members’ well-being. This will help you feel more connected, social, healthier and engaged. “Be kind to all; you never know who is struggling and how you can make a difference.”
  • Engage in alternative activities to keep your mind and body active. For example, listen to music or sing; try dancing or biking, yoga or meditation; take virtual tours of museums and places of interest; sketch or paint; read books or novels; solve puzzles or play board games; try new recipes, and learn about other cultures.
  • Don’t isolate yourself completely — communicate with others.

The holidays were meant to be a joyous time. Instead of staying in our homes, get outside. There are people — like you — who want to be your friend.

About the authors: Jagdish Khubchandani is a professor of public health at New Mexico State University.

Marc Ransford is the founder of MR Public Relations in Indianapolis.

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