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.

Original Source:

I originally wrote this article for The Drive Magazine.

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

C77A33BE-C4E6-4E5C-A2DD-B47BEF254E46

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:

schacter singer

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.

Watch Video Summary

Click Here

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 are 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.”

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.

D4714D22-581D-44B7-824C-CF88A21FF87C

• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Disclaimer: This post and magazine 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.

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. What are your unique traditions and one-of-a-kind celebrations?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH with Positive Psychology

The goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings. The goal is to change your response to them.

Instead of thinking of mental health as a burden you must shoulder, imagine it as an opportunity to experience peace and joy.

In the same way that we make time for our physical needs, we must devote equal attention to our psychological needs.

Prevention-Header

Where do we begin?

P E R M A Theory of Well-Being

PERMA..

PERMA is a framework for happiness and well-being developed by UPenn professor Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology.

The model contains five key indicators of human flourishing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement.

Original Source:

This blog post first appeared in The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/cultivating-mental-health-daily

mental health

Positive Emotion

Feeling good is an essential part of well-being.

That said, it’s easy to get lost in a spiral of negativity — What’s wrong? Who’s to blame? Why did this happen to me? Leaving little time in the day for appreciation, wonder, and fun.

Which is why it’s essential to schedule good vibe moments into each day.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Begin the day with inspiring quotes on your bathroom mirror.
  2. Create a spa atmosphere for morning coffee with music and candles.
  3. Listen to upbeat music and podcasts on your way to work.
  4. Start conversations with your dreams, not your stressors.
  5. Put a 20-minute daily time limit on blaming and complaining.
  6. Go to bed visualizing three new things you’re grateful for that day.

Joy needs room to breathe.

And so do you.

789507C6-8AC5-4C75-A716-8A6182D87261

Engagement

Remember when you were a kid playing with friends, and before you knew it the street lights came on? If it wasn’t for your mom yelling your name, you would be outside playing all night long. In that moment, you were in a state of flow.

flow

You were completely engaged in what you were doing, independent of everything around you.

Your mom could have called your name for hours, and you wouldn’t have heard a word.

One hundred percent of your attentional capacity was taken up by the activity right in front of you.

Most likely you still experience a state of flow and engagement, but not as often as you like.

Activities that create a flow state include:

  1. Writing
  2. Dancing
  3. Music
  4. Art
  5. Sports

kickbox

Engagement and flow are important for mental health. When you’re completely absorbed by a task, your mind has no capacity left over for distressing thoughts and emotions.

Relationships

Social support is an important buffer for life’s challenges.

That said, not all associations are created equal. Some relationships, unfortunately, lead to a deterioration in mental health.

Which is why CHOICE is an especially powerful tool when it comes to relationships, well-being, and happiness.

Consider the following when you spend time with people:

  1. Do you feel uplifted or drained?
  2. Do you feel listened to or ignored?
  3. Do you feel encouraged or criticized?

IMGP3099

Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.

Meaning

Meaning comes from serving something bigger than ourselves.

Whether it be family, charity, occupation, or community, meaning unites us in a common vision and gives us the will to get through adversity.

Students Are My North Star

why motivation.jpg

That said, meaning can appear elusive to some, so why not consider one purpose each day.

Begin with a typical workday. Choose one purpose, and do something to give meaning to that purpose.

I’ve listed a few options, as well as an example for each:

  1. Pick one person — thank a custodian for their hard work.
  2. Pick one place — post uplifting notes and quotes on a section of the wall.
  3. Pick one time — declare 3 pm gratitude hour.

 Achievement

Achievement is the final component of the PERMA model, and, in many ways, its foundation. Goals give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction, helping us to know if we are headed in the right direction.

The key is to balance our drive and determination with the right level of difficulty. If we set a goal that’s too easy, we get bored. If it’s too hard, we experience learned helplessness.

too hard

The solution?

Set daily goals that are achievable and tied into your highest dreams.

In Conclusion

Cultivating mental health daily prepares us for the big things in our life. Every little bit counts, everything adds up. Small things on repeat change the world.

PERMA

Video 1 of Blog Post  Click Here
Video 2 of Blog Post  Click Here

 

Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

With time, I have come to realize that failure has always been my greatest teacher. Each failure pointed me in a better direction and helped me to develop strength and authenticity, ultimately unveiling who I was and what I was destined to become

F. A. I. L. = First Attempt In Learning

• The failing grade I received on my first exam in graduate school taught me how to ask for support when I needed it most, no matter how shameful I felt or embarrassed I was.

• The end of a long-term relationship taught me how to value my time alone and make tough decisions for myself, no matter how weak I felt or lonesome I was.

• The layoff from a job I loved taught me how to let go, look forward, and trust in something so much bigger than myself, no matter how scared I was or irrelevant I felt.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

7de807b1-cb97-4b41-8666-1e3e52afde43

Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Under the right conditions, failure strengthens us, adds to our self-knowledge, and enhances the quality of our lives

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have met my husband John.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be a psychology professor.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have written three textbooks.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be the person I am today.

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again.”

blog-articles-drive-failure-as-feedback

Source: https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/failure-as-feedback

 Your Turn:

What life lessons has failure taught you?

EMPOWERING THOUGHTS

Choose the THOUGHTS that emPOWER you today.

CDD5A68C-C62C-4313-8791-B53C30070985

It takes

one word

one thought

one mantra

to shift our mind

from pain to power.

What will your empowering thought be this week?

I’d love to know.

Share your WORD in comments below ⤵️

uplifting thoughts

Related Post: Empowering Conversations

Thanks for visiting my psychology blog!

Dr. D 💖☀️

Visualization Exercise: Look for the signs

Signs pointing us in the direction of our dreams are everywhere.

Everywhere!

But we have to look UP to see it.

OPEN our minds to BELIEVE it.

FE08A8CD-3628-48EE-B405-82A9691D041E

Daily Visualization Exercise

The next time you see a 40 km, 50 km, or even 100 km sign — take it as an opportunity to visualize where (and who) you want to be at that age.

Additionally, use each “sign” as instant reflection time for contemplating: 1) what you need to do more of and 2) what you need to let go of to get there.

We only get one life.

Let’s imagine the best one possible!

52C1FF63-428D-4794-A39E-4A8CC4755B0D

What signs have you noticed lately?

Optimism Bootcamp – Click Here

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Peer Pressure and Alcohol: Stand Your Sacred Ground

The Social Side Effects of Change

Motivation to make a change is as much about you, as the people all around you. And unfortunately, not everyone agrees with our decision to grow, change, and evolve. In whatever form it may take.

62C1E174-F12D-442D-A706-7E2C9B879CEF

Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself“

For when we change, we unknowingly push friends and family outside their comfort zone too. And that’s ok. The important thing to understand is that not everyone is going to support our choice to change. Something I learned personally.

My story

This post was inspired by my own journey of quitting drinking in 2005, motivated by three reasons:

1. Starting a family with my husband.

2. Improving my health.

AD4BBF96-BD1A-4C50-8AF5-0E0CF20E79E8

3. Being a role model for my students

Unexpected Side Effects

What I did not expect was the pressure to keep drinking that came along with my decision to give up alcohol over a decade ago.

The pressure to remain the same.

The pressure to behave like everyone else.

A resistance to change from others that I did not foresee.

CFDFF23F-E402-4C19-88D8-B1F962930366

My students’ stories

— Peer Pressure and Alcohol Use in College

Students over the age of 19 have a choice when it comes to drinking alcohol.

A decision to drink or not drink that is often overshadowed by peer pressure and the widespread culture of risky drinking on and off Canadian campuses.

22758508-D1CC-410C-A346-F1E489FDDDF6

Too often students drink to “fit in, reduce stress, numb anxiety” (their words) because they know of no other way.

Excerpt from today’s class:

Class Discussion and Solutions

Which is why it’s more important than ever to open up the conversation of what it’s like to be a young person amongst the culture of alcohol use and abuse today.

AA09EF5F-D043-494C-91BB-E00A159F3187

A hot topic that stimulates honest and open debate in my classroom each year. Including remedies to the pressures of college that extend far beyond alcohol.

To listen to our discussion click here.

518CE3A8-3C19-4019-B274-7B289DCC3EDF

Your story

1. What motivates you to make a health change?

2. What de-motivates you?

3. Have you experienced pressure from others to continue unhealthy habits? To not change?

4. How do you stay true to your personal choices?

Coping with Peer Pressure 

Rather than debate or argue your case.

Be still and hold your space.

Take a deep breath, and trust your choices.

Trust that being yourself is enough. 

You get one life. Make it yours. 

Stand Your Sacred Ground.

Video of Blog Post — Click Here

Anxiety Relief Technique: What’s Under the Fear?

Shifting from Fear to Peace

2496A222-A162-4311-9177-F6677EF05664

The 5 WHYS is a simple and effective technique for getting under the fear one why at a time.

The goal is to discover the root source of what causes stress or anxiety in a particular time, place, or situation.

With the ultimate intention of enhancing inner peace, self-compassion, and understanding.

BELOW THE SURFACE PSYCHOLOGY

Try the 5 WHYS technique along with me (click here to participate) and let me know what you discover! Dr. D 💖

How we talk to ourselves matters.

4C28F69F-30DC-4EEB-8EA3-B9960748303E

How we talk to ourselves matters tremendously.

Particularly in the eye of the storm.

Having a “go to” mantra in times of stress helps.

Especially in the uncomfortable (agonizing) moments between stress and strength.

Video of Blog Post ⇒ Click Here

A mantra that has helped me over the years is imagining myself:

g r o w i n g + e x p a n d i n g

during the dark times.

Chanting “I am expanding” as the rain falls.

6937F365-0513-46A8-9016-32606C5DB390

Today I wish the same for you.

May you see the blessing in every storm. 

Expanding you.

Preparing you. 

For the next level of your destiny.🎈

B5092702-BE8C-4FC8-B787-F5CC7001A7EB

Helpful Tips: Optimism Bootcamp

Choice and transformation go hand in hand.

“Empowerment is realizing you have a choice.”

My mission in life is to encourage people to own their choices – no matter how big or how small. In doing so, individuals will uncover the magnificent power that lives within them.

Embracing the power to choose one’s emotions, thoughts, and reactions to life’s circumstances is the key which unlocks personal freedom and empowerment.

Video ⇒ The Psychology of Change

image

POWER OF CHOICE

Becoming aware of choice points, big and small, is the beginning of the path to transformation.

Choosing a path uniquely suited to you – is your way out of disenchantment and your way into a life of purpose, passion, and peace.

CHOOSE THE CHANGE

  1. Are you ready to claim your life as it is right now?
  2. Are you ready to let go of the past and live in the present?
  3. Are you ready to take back your power and the reins of your life?
  4. Are you ready to fully witness your life as it unfolds directly before you?
  5. Are you ready to choose the change in your life, instead of it choosing you?

18B788C0-5C59-4A66-B5AD-490660DCB3B9.jpeg

The choice is yours.

Positive Psychology Workshops 
⇒ Click Here