For a lot of people, Christmas is a wonderful time of year where we get to connect, share delicious food and spend quality time with the ones we love and care about most. However, for many others it can feel like the loneliest time of year. In fact, according to Telstra’s research, 3 in 4 Australians have admitted to feeling lonely over the holiday period*.
Everywhere you look, there are exciting gifts to buy, loving families enjoying time with each other and ideas to create the perfect Christmas Day feast. It can be really exciting, but for someone who doesn’t have a close relationship with family or the resources to give someone a gift, it can be an awful reminder of what you don’t have and what is being missed out on.
Those reminders can feel incredibly isolating.
Kindness is the antidote to loneliness
We all have our own stories, problems and daily challenges – challenges that are often hidden below the surface from anyone to see. At the core of making people feel more connected, remembering this and showing kindness can go a long way to making someone feel valued and less isolated. Something that was profoundly reinforced for me very recently.
We’ve got a program here in Melbourne, where we go out and see if we can help anyone overnight. It was two o’clock on a Saturday morning, we were driving down Elizabeth Street in Melbourne, and there was a body on the train tracks. We pulled over; it was a young woman in her early 20s and she was lying on the train track, saying “just leave me alone.”
So my colleague rang triple O, and was trying to arrange an ambulance. I ended up sitting on the train tracks with this young woman. And she just kept saying “no one cares, I’ve got no one, I’m just very lonely.”
A garbage truck driver who was driving past then stopped and came over to look at what was happening. He then crouched down and spoke really gently to the young woman and he just said: ‘People care. You just don’t know that they do. And these guys here just want to help you so any assistance they offer you, you just need to accept it. You’re going to get through this you’re going to be okay.’ He got back in the truck and drove off and then this young woman calmed down and we were able to get her off the train tracks and to some help.
Everyone can show kindness to others, you don’t need to be trained, educated or experienced. It can be as simple as showing a smile, stopping for a moment to talk or helping someone you come across in need. Life can be busy but showing a few minutes of kindness to someone can mean much more than you realise.
What you can do if you’re feeling isolated
In the same way that helping others can make them feel less isolated, it can actually make you feel more connected by doing so too.
That feeling can be quite profound. If you’re feeling lonely, it’s important to be looking for opportunities where you might be able to reach out to support somebody else. We have a philosophy at the Salvation Army that says “the best way to help yourself is to help others”.
We run many programs across each state in Australia around Christmas time and help from volunteers is always needed.
It can also be much simpler than that – you’ll find that even something as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee can make you feel more connected.
On Christmas Day, if you’re worried you might not have anyone to spend time with, we also have our annual Christmas Day lunches. You’ll meet new people, eat some delicious food and be able to experience a wonderful time together.
We can all play a part in helping people feel more connected over the holiday period – keep a look out for people within your community or network that might be struggling during this time and reach out. It may only take a minute of their time but it can make a huge difference.
For more tips on dealing with loneliness for yourself or others, visit our loneliness hub.
If you need help, mental health support services are available through:
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
*Telstra research conducted by YouGov in November – December 2021