If you’re feeling a bit of the holiday blues, there may be factors contributing to it that you aren’t aware of and have little control over. Recent research suggests your friends, family, and coworkers can spread their feelings of loneliness to you, and vice versa.
The study found that the spread of loneliness can extend up to three degrees of separation (your friends’ friends’ friends could affect your level of loneliness). The spread of loneliness is stronger for friends than family members, and stronger for women than men. Research also indicates that those who feel more loneliness tend to be driven away by others in their social networks, which leave them socially isolated and further promotes their loneliness.
Loneliness has negative psychological effects and can lead to problems such as depression, alcoholism, and obesity. Some studies indicate in can also affect sleep, blood pressure, and epinephrine levels.
There are a number of ways to fend off loneliness. Joining a club, or volunteering for a project or cause you care about brings you into contact with others and can distract you from your feelings. The holiday season is a great time to volunteer, since there are so many food drives, present drives, coat drives, soup kitchens and more. You can even start a charitable event of your own.
Reconnecting with those you care about can also help alleviate your feelings of loneliness. Call your mom, or make a holiday-themed dinner and invite your friends.