Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays

DE341603-2023-4BDE-9C74-FE228ED5CC36.gif

When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness. An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

SARAH

Sarah was a 42-year-old recently divorced woman who was about to face her first holiday season alone. Living in a new town, miles away from friends and family, she was waiting to begin a new job in January. Hours felt like days.

Days felt like months. Sarah had tried everything to fill the void inside. The mistake she made was running away from the one thing that would help get her to the other side: loneliness itself.

3359D667-CC78-4E18-89A7-87B0AE05517C

Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature.

There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion:

43D822C8-16BB-4072-BE68-EB4072593D74.png

This  theory of emotion explains why two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different emotional reactions to it.

What matters most is the person’s interpretation of an event, not the event itself. After all, as they say, one person’s glass-half-full is another one’s glass-half-empty.

In Sarah’s situation, she interpreted her physiological response to idle time as loneliness, while another person might label it as much-needed relaxation. Ultimately, Sarah has a choice. One interpretation debilitates; the other empowers.

2. Witness the emotion

Now that Sarah understands the interpretative power she holds over her environmental triggers, the next step is to witness loneliness in a neutral, curious state rather than fighting it at every turn.

47BF6474-FAF0-42FE-8891-04CA86593692

In doing so, Sarah neutralizes the intensity of her emotions, allowing them to flow through her, rather than getting stuck in a repetitive loop of pain.

Here are four simple ways to create space between triggers and responses:

1. Count to 10

2. Take a long deep breath

3. Make three wishes

4. Look up at the sky

3195BEF0-277A-4909-8F4D-4BDE6097C0D8.gif

Taken one step further, each time that Sarah experiences a challenging emotion during the holidays, rather than running from it she needs to lean in and ask that emotion, “What are you trying to teach me?”

3. Reframe the emotion

The final step for Sarah is to learn how to reframe the situations that trigger her loneliness, and understand why sometimes she overreacts, while other times she lets go without a second thought.

Solitude is perceived as isolation by one person and freedom by another.

25FD9A69-83D1-4871-B49C-62C1D3C1A2B6

Reframing exercise:

1. Identify a situation that triggers loneliness.

2. Imagine the best-case scenario: “This situation is temporary.”

3. Look for evidence of the best-case scenario: “The longest I’ve been single is two years.”

4. Describe the worst-case scenario: “I will be alone forever.”

5. Name the benefits of the worst-case scenario: “I am free to do what I want.”

6. Finally, ask for help in reframing triggers, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

Once Sarah learns how to change the story “behind” the story, her instinctive loneliness lessens. And her ability to choose a higher thought improves.

JACK

At 55 years of age, Jack was also feeling the pangs of loneliness. His wife of 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

Unexpected was an understatement. They had run in three marathons together and had spent their weekends sampling new vegan restaurants in their local community. Ever since his wife had died, Jack struggled to face the holidays alone.

Jack’s story is as much about him as it is about the family around him. His family and friends’ automatic response was to feel sorry for him, a response that compounded his feelings of disconnectedness and misunderstanding.

Jack did not want people to feel sorry for him. He was a proud man who was ready to move on.

00E9F077-49A0-4F22-BEB6-D5AF1766E727.jpeg

Get out of your own head

1. Meet with “experienced” widowers

As much as Jack missed his wife, he also missed his ability to connect authentically with friends and family. Having been treated with kid gloves since his wife died, Jack longed to be seen as a victor rather than a victim

As such, I encourage Jack to connect with like-minded individuals who had been through a similar situation: widows and widowers. Specifically, ones who had been on their own for several years.

The benefits were twofold. One, Jack would learn new ways of relating to friends and family. And two, he’d be given the green light to grow and acclimate to his new circumstances.

65EE6623-9968-4D76-8A34-4414B67CACDE

2. Connect with others in unexpected, low-pressure ways

The other component missing in Jack’s life was fun. Simple, cheerful, good-time fun. Everything had become so serious since his wife died, with almost every conversation beginning or ending with his wife’s death.

There was no doubt that he missed her with all his heart. But equally, he longed for moments where he could be free of the loneliness and pain.

I recommend that Jack reintroduce sports into his life. Something non-competitive that would get him out of the house on a Wednesday night. Better yet, if it involved people that he had never met, it would allow him to continue his journey of reinvention and rediscovery.

Equally therapeutic for Jack would be joining a cinema group or regular euchre meetup—both would offer him a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

653B1A85-0811-4980-8759-511F57D0667A

3. Honour the old, create the new

Finally, I advise Jack to examine the memories and traditions that he wanted to keep alive during the holidays—and, equally, the ones of which he was ready to let go.

Jack took the practice one step further. Declaring December a month of renewal and reinvention, he revived a strength and peace inside that radiated out to his entire family.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Original Source:

This blog post first appeared in The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness/

C77A33BE-C4E6-4E5C-A2DD-B47BEF254E46

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To protect the privacy of individuals, names and identifying details have been changed
.

Conclusion 

Jack and Sarah have a lot to teach us about loneliness and how important it is to honour the unique ways in which we process adversity.

One size does not fit all. Fellowship and fun were vital for Jack’s growth and recovery, while Sarah needed a more analytical approach to processing difficulty.

• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Your Turn

1. How do you cope with difficult emotions during the holidays?

2. What strategies do you use to make peace with the heightened pressures of the Christmas season?

3. How do you make “Hallmark Card” traditions your own?

Video of this Post → Click Here

Repeat after me: It’s ok not to be 💯 percent during the holidays. 🎄❤️

SAYING NO Are you a feeler or a thinker?

CEA8868D-6D33-4D15-B9CC-496EB8A43ED5

Do you have a difficult time saying no?

While others in your life say no without a second thought.

Is this confusing and at times upsetting for you?

Are you hard on yourself because of this discrepancy between yourself and others?

You may be interested to discover that Saying No is not a one size fits all.

AFDF6FCC-7A4E-4276-B6F1-AA761DA3B0DE
Join me in my
virtual psychology classroom as I share one factor that explains why some people have more difficulty saying no and holding boundaries than others — Your Personality.

Feelers vs. Thinkers

Feelers

In this video I describe how individuals who are overly sensitive to the feelings of others (HSPs, Empaths, ENFJs) often focus on the needs of others to the exclusion of themselves.

Video: SAYING NO Are you a feeler or a thinker?

feeler

❤️ Feelers take things more personally than thinkers.

Often causing feelers to say YES on the outside when on the inside their intuition is telling them to SAY NO.

Result = Mixed Messages + Unnecessary Stress

Thinkers

By contrast, individuals who are left brain dominant (thinkers on the Myers Briggs scale) are more straightforward and logical in their response to requests from friends and coworkers.

left right

Consequently, thinkers do not focus to the same extent on the emotions of “the requesters” in the same way that feelers (eg., ENFJ’s) on the on the Myers Briggs do.

💡 Saying no comes naturally to thinkers.

Thinkers know what they want and use analytics + logic not the emotions of the person in front of them as their guiding force.

C7A38F17-D1BC-45D7-835D-5BB96360201A.jpeg

Learning from each other

On the plus side:

Feelers and thinkers make incredible teammates.

At work and in life.

Balance is everything. 🧠 + ❤️

brain-heart-balance-pix

Additional Information

1. Right Brain versus Left Brain
2. Are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
3. Learn About Myers Briggs Personality Profile
4. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

CDB54017-5086-4D4C-B4C2-960E7A4B0626.jpeg

Let me know in comments below how your personality impacts different areas of your life, including saying No.

Please share techniques you’ve developed for setting boundaries too!

I’d love to know!

Dr. D 📚

One Final Note:

In Addition to Personality and Individual Differences

Situation Also Impacts Our Ability to Say NO + Stand Firm

Video: Saying No is Easier When You Feel Safe

5 Ways to Focus Better | The Drive Magazine

IMG_2907

Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

One of the most frequent questions I was asked as a practicing psychologist and more recently as a psychology professor is why can’t I remember anything.

The problem is most likely a focusing issue — not a memory issue.

An important distinction between memory and attention that I share my Fall Focus Article in The Drive Magazine. And again, in more detail, in the focus video below.

In the video in particular, I describe how the Atkinson–Shiffrin memory model (see model below) differentiates between sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo - Focus Article.6

And the important implications this model has for one’s ability to focus and remember information long term.

You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.


Link to Fall Focus Article

5 Ways to Focus Better

Issue 124. The Drive Magazine.
Click Here: thedrivemagazine.com/posts/5-ways-to-focus-better

IMG_2910

Click Here: YouTube Understanding Memory

Thanks for your attention!

Dr. D 📚

Optimism Bootcamp for Health & Happiness.

3229FFA6-333A-4ABB-9D15-3CA07AA664D5

Hope Lights The Way

Nathalie Begin author of the Gutsy Feeling Blog invited me to give a positive psychology workshop called Optimism Bootcamp at a Symposium for Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.

The audience was filled a very special group of people. Individuals that have been battling the chronic condition of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) their whole lives.

Click Here to join the workshop

What’s IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions, the two main forms of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD also includes indeterminate colitis.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition, and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.

Source: Chrohn’s and Colitis Canada

Health Warriors

Individuals with chronic health problems such as IBD often feel a sense of helplessness and disempowerment over their bodies.

Which is why teaching concrete strategies for focusing on what’s within one’s control (beliefs and attitudes; deep breathing; present moment awareness) and letting go of what’s not (waiting times; IBD diagnosis; doctor availability) is so important.

Believing you can is half the battle.

A2C16DDC-6F04-4CDB-86BE-1ECB3EA38A40

Optimism Research

Research in health psychology shows that optimism and having hope in one’s future has a significant impact on whether patients follow through on medical advice.

Optimism has also been found to improve the overall quality of life, well-being, and happiness of cancer patients.

Click Here for Research on Health, Hope, and Optimism

“Hope changes everything. It transforms pessimism into optimism. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy.” Daisaku Ikeda

98F76DDB-CFC6-4AB0-AFE6-2C7BED570BB1

Optimism Can Be Learned

The good news is that optimism is a skill that can be learned!

  1. Optimism / pessimism are not fixed personality traits that someone is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born with.
  2.  Optimism / pessimism are states (not traits) that are malleable and open to change.
  3. Optimism / pessimism are attributional styles that can be taught and reinforced over time.

Additional insight on how our minds work

Excerpt from Optimism Article:

Using Attribution Theory, I can tell a lot about someone by the way they interpret the events that happen in their lives, particularly the explanatory style they use in analyzing setbacks versus successes.

attribution theory table

The pessimist perceives failures as personal, permanent, and pervasive, and thus has difficulty moving beyond setbacks. They often get lost in a recurrent loop of negativity.

In contrast, optimists see setbacks as universal. to everyone, temporary in time, and limited to one or two areas of their lives.

Source:  Dr. Andrea Dinardo, The Drive Magazine

E903E6EE-94D6-4EB2-AFDD-C677E05F3F4D

Click Here to Watch Optimism Video Workshop

Hope you enjoy the workshop and have fun doing the interactive exercises!

Dr. D 💖☀️

Body Image: Don’t Believe Everything You Think 💭

Perception versus Reality

I was motivated to write this post and film the accompanying video after witnessing so many students overwrought by feelings of inadequacy regarding their body image and self worth.

DD391A1A-3679-4619-A4C8-8F4ECD0C905C

There was no doubt that in reality they were healthy and whole, but in their minds, they believed the opposite.

 The Antidote

The following is a set of questions that challenge irrational perceptions and cognitive distortions using reality itself.

The inquiry is not limited to body image and weight and thus can be applied in any areas where you find yourself caught in a repetitive thought loop.

FE8A3DBB-DA11-4100-B36D-8A62F9E4100B

Reality Testing Homework:

  1. How do I know if this thought is accurate?
  2. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
  3. How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they’re accurate?
  4. Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
  5. Is this thought helpful?
  6. Are there other ways that I can think about this or myself?
  7. Is it really in my control?
  8. Am I overgeneralizing?
  9. Am I making assumptions?
  10. What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  11. Can I look for “shades of gray”?
  12. Am I assuming the worst?
  13. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable standard?
  14. Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
  15. Am I making this personal when it isn’t?

Source: Challenging Cognitive Distortions

7F49B21B-2F22-4628-87A1-B5150F4157BA

Related Research & Articles

1. Past visual experiences weigh in on body size estimation. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-18418-3#Sec2

2. The image in the mirror and the number on the scale: Weight, Weight Perceptions, and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610322/

3. Perception versus reality of body weight: Which matters most. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032713002905

4. How social media contributes to body dysmorphia. https://www.thelexingtonline.com/blog/2018/5/7/how-social-media-contributes-to-body-dysmorphic-behaviors

DB696A1B-0261-4479-9EEF-3D70AB412AC6

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

What are your perceptual filters?

Rose coloured? Perfectionist? Overachiever?

How often do you TEST reality?

Do you believe everything you think?

Click Here to Watch Video

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Psychology on YouTube: Helping people live a better life.

Psychology for Everyone

My number one intention for becoming a psychologist and psychology professor has always been to help people live a better life, no matter their life circumstances.

And since there are only so many hours in a day, I’m always looking for new ways to reach and teach as many people as I can. All at once, if possible.   

Which is why I created a Psychology Tips Playlist on my YouTube Channel that I contribute to weekly.

101 psychology videos for you to enjoy! ⤵️

Psychology Tips: Video Playlist

7F064A82-2E43-4999-937B-CE596DBB9F15

Fun Learning Opportunity

The purpose of my Psychology YouTube Channel is to share the key lessons of my 3 hour psychology lectures in 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Giving people far and wide access to virtual classes, especially those who don’t have the money or means to an undergraduate education.

I know how busy everyone is. And I love a good challenge! 

I also include videos of psychology workshops and keynote speeches.

FD4204E9-1B8F-4EF4-857E-E19C2D85B295

Wishing you a day filled with love & learning! 📕💙

Radio Interview: Why People Refuse to Change Their Minds

Interview Now Available 📻☀️

I begin 6 min 24 sec into radio segment:  http://www.iheartradio.ca/am800/audio/sunday-morning-live-dr-andrea-dinardo-1.9561424?mode=Article

JULY 28 RADIO SHOW TOPIC:

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

E0605F9E-84CE-4F06-A7A5-9B18E4C55582

I would love your questions and reflections on the topic of why people refuse to change their minds and/or adjust their stance on a political, personal, relationship, or health issue — despite overwhelming factual evidence contrary to their personal opinions.

Watch video preview — click here

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

1. Have you ever refused to listen to contradictory viewpoints? Why?

2. What type of persuasive techniques does it take to change your mind?

3. Why do you think people prefer comforting lies over unpleasant truths

cognitivedissonanceradioshow

Cognitive dissonance can be reduced in one of three ways:

1) Change one or more of the attitudes, behavior, beliefs, etc., to make the relationship between the two elements a consonant one.

2) Acquire new information that outweighs the dissonant beliefs.

3) Reduce the importance of the cognitions (i.e., beliefs, attitudes).

McLeod, S. A. (2018, Feb 05). Cognitive dissonance.

wisdom

Interview Now Available 📻☀️

I begin 6 min 24 sec into radio segment:  http://www.iheartradio.ca/am800/audio/sunday-morning-live-dr-andrea-dinardo-1.9561424?mode=Article

Please share your ideas too!

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Empowering Conversations.

2AA5CC0F-113D-4B25-AD70-30C33D3E95E2

In today’s psychology class, we discussed how important it is to empower friends, family, and clients going through difficult times.

And how even if we’re an expert in psychology, medicine, or business – it does not make us the master of someone else’s life.86413B3A-117A-451E-9318-CB334FF5E5CC

Together we explored strength based techniques for uplifting and encouraging others in conversation and in daily life.

Acknowledging that we still have so much left to learn about friends and family.

And the only way to do this is to create an inviting listening space between ourselves and the people we meet.

3B1FF595-B8C3-423B-90B1-BC954B8EB699

Next Steps

Helpful tips for enhancing conversations with clients and family members can be found in the June article in The Drive Magazine (click here) and in the psychology video below —


The Story Behind the Story

This post was inspired by my sister Noelle.

12BB321D-E44A-4F1F-A3DF-D616562A0831“When my sister was 19, she had a brain aneurysm. Every day since, she has struggled to maintain her independence and financial security.

Despite her trauma, Noelle continues to thrive in unexpected and beautiful ways. She never gives up, no matter what comes her way. Over the years, I have discovered the difference it makes when I support Noelle from her perspective, rather than dictating what she needs.”

Excerpt from The Drive Magazine | Issue 122, p. 49

EMPOWERING

Someone with a Brain Injury

60FB6719-BDBF-404F-84B3-91BB1D7197BC

Written with the help of my sister ❤️

Manage energy not time. Positive energy multiplies.

Awareness is the first step to increasing vitality.

What you give energy to matters tremendously.

Thoughts. Emotions. Actions. People.

Some drain. Others invigorate.

2AA68144-D17F-4AC5-8B4B-6BD4492B76D8

Where to start?

I made a video to help people become more conscious of what depletes their energy and what lifts them up.

Including the Energy Audit a simple and easy-to-use technique for monitoring the ebb and flow of energy that we all experience throughout the day.

Heightened awareness and monitoring is especially important for people who struggle with low energy and lack of time. Helping them to identify the source of their energy leaks and peaks.

Energy Audit Technique:

Time versus Energy Management

Rather than focusing on time, which is finite, I suggest that we turn our attention to energy management, which in turn expands the amount of time we have.

Because when we feel energized, we can do twice as much in half the time.

Positive Energy Multiplies

gif light

Takeaway

Your energy is your currency.

Spend it well.

Invest it wisely.


Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you manage your energy throughout the day?
  2. Is energy something you consciously pay attention to?
  3. What is your energy level on a scale of 1-10 right now?
  4. What (who) energizes you? What (who) drains you?
  5. Will you try the ENERGY AUDIT technique I share in the video?

This was my first video blog ever!  (Filmed July 2018) I was equal parts terrified and excited. Hence the breathlessness. Upside: I had a blast filming it

Lemon Soul Podcast: Thriving Under Pressure.

The Psychology of Wellness

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed on the Lemon Soul Podcast by an engaging and bright young woman named Sierra Parr.

It was one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on and I hope you find the same value in listening to the podcast as I had co-creating it with Ms. Parr.

What is a Lemon Soul? 🍋

A lemon soul is someone who has been sweetened by the sour parts of life. Resulting in the most beautiful soul of all – “The Lemon Soul”.

FDDA2DEC-EF02-486C-8C8C-FCEB0BCF445F

The Lemon Soul Experience 🍋

Sierra’s podcast questions are timely, thought-provoking, and well-organized.

With equal parts practicality, spirituality, and science. Wrapped up in a captivating and compassionate interview style.

So much so, that I revealed parts of my life that I have never shared publicly before.

Take a listen and let me know what resonates with you!

Lemon Soul Podcast: Episode 15

 Tap on Image Below and Press Play

BBEDCEB6-283C-4638-851E-5E6FE28B299F

Thriving Under Pressure: Psychology of Mental Wellness

1. Listen on SoundCloud: https://m.soundcloud.com/lemonsoulpodcast/015-dr-andrea-dinardo-thriving-under-pressure

2. Listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/lemon-soul/id1386504193?mt=2&i=1000432857445

A32F7E96-03E8-482D-B4BD-E1FA26B80691.jpeg

SHOW NOTES FROM LEMON SOUL PODCAST 🍋 

Very honoured to sit down with Dr. Andrea Dinardo this week and divulge all my lemon soul questions with her. A true testament to her work as a psychologist and now psychology professor, this episode is FULL of good advice! With a deeper insight into many of our mental health struggles and the science behind how our brain is working. Furthermore diving into Dr. Dinardo’s personal life as she uncovers her fundamental inspiration for everything she does in life, her sister.

237C6D4F-44A6-4BEF-BAD3-5BD9A7FEEBA0
Lemon Soul Podcast on iTunes

Topics covered on the podcast:       

From psychologist to psychology professor!
How to motivate students!
Why connection is important.
Compassion fatigue
The givers & the takers
Setting boundaries for others and ourselves.
Thriving Under Pressure!
Failure as Feedback!
Are we socialized to care?
How to train your brain
Challenge, Control, & Commitment
Honour your pain!
B r e a t h i n g s p a c e !
The universe box

Claiming your prize
GET MOVING!

2BA65870-3591-47B9-93A4-4A478FB3AEE9.jpeg

I hope this podcast interview inspires you to take the road less traveled this week.

The one you have been waiting to take for days, months, perhaps years.

If not now, when?

Listen Here: Lemon Soul Podcast