4 ways to help members navigate holiday loneliness

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A lonely woman sits in her living room next to a Christmas tree while using her cell phone to access the Pyx Health app.Whether trimming the tree, lighting the Menorah or Kinara, baking cookies or frying up latkes, the holiday season is about making memories and sharing love. But for some of your plan members, it can be a difficult time. Everyone deserves to enjoy the season, so we’re uncovering ways to support your members and reduce holiday loneliness. 

How the holidays can affect lonely members 

The holidays are hard for many people. Maybe plans don’t work out right, loved ones are far away, or a recent loss is weighing on the season. Up to 31% of people feel lonely during the holidays, and the obligation to make merry can lead to feeling stressed, alienated or inadequate. It’s okay to feel sad, but several strategies can curb holiday loneliness.

Ways health plans can help members deal with holiday loneliness

Plans like yours have the power to support members during the holiday season. Taking the role of an ally, you can encourage positive actions and activities for members. One or a combination of strategies might help.

Volunteer or participate in charity.

Charity is good for the soul, and the holidays are the perfect time to give back, spread cheer and make life better for someone else. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and your members have a variety of options to choose from, including: 

  • Donating to gift drives, such as Toys for Tots.
  • Working at animal shelters and nonprofits, such as the Humane Society.
  • Helping those experiencing homelessness, such as through soup kitchens.
  • Volunteering in senior communities and providing companionship.

Charity work doesn’t just fill up time, either. In fact, research shows that selflessness reduces feelings of loneliness and improves health in five key areas:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Life satisfaction
  • Social well-being
  • Depression

Helping others creates a sense of purpose and connection with something bigger, diminishing feelings of loneliness.

Adopt healthy habits.

The holiday season might be one of the hardest times to “get healthy,” but it’s not impossible. That might mean doing extra work to follow a healthy diet: Pass on the hors d'oeuvres, walk away from the cookie tray and consider limiting alcohol consumption to avoid its depressant effects. 

Encouraging members to get active might help as well. Exercise not only provides energy, but also releases endorphins to create feelings of happiness and relaxation — improving mental health. Research shows that exercise is associated with a lower likelihood of loneliness and mitigates the associated health care expenditures.

Becoming more physically healthy through positive habits can impact a member’s mood and emotional well-being.

It’s time to debunk the myths around loneliness! Download our infographic to  uncover the truth about loneliness and who it really impacts.

Practice gratitude.

“Be thankful for what you have” is more than a cliché. Focusing on the positive — such as

friends, family, work and hobbies — provides real benefits. Notably, gratitude is proven to improve health and wellness and encourage:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Better sleep
  • Improved emotional well-being
  • Greater sense of happiness

Beyond simply adopting a more positive outlook, members can take steps to practice gratitude. For instance, daily gratitude journaling is effective.

Process feelings of loneliness.

What’s at the root of holiday loneliness? Sometimes a little self-reflection on the causes of loneliness is what members need. A good starting point is to encourage them to avoid anticipating negative feelings, but still make room for both positive and negative feelings as they come. 

But there are more proactive ways to cope too. If possible, encourage your members to work with a therapist to navigate their feelings. Doing so can uncover the root causes of loneliness, such as needing stronger connections or struggling with underlying mental or physical health issues. A therapist can provide coping resources and strategies, plus a treatment plan.

Is therapy not a feasible option? Members can connect with their behavioral health plan benefits to discover available resources.

Make holiday loneliness a thing of the past

The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time, but that’s easier for some than others. Holiday loneliness can have a devastating impact, but plans like yours can point members in the right direction. From encouraging them to get more involved to helping them deal with loneliness head on, there's a tool in the box for everyone. This time of year it's especially important to remind your members what type of behavioral health support is available to them.

The right platform solution can make a difference too. Pyx Health combines human-centered compassion with advanced technology to deliver the right resources to your members. Our app offers science-based activities to help users cope with loneliness. Plus, our supportive ANDYs connect members to the right plan resources at the right time.

Want to better understand how loneliness impacts your members during the holiday season and beyond? Debunk the myths about loneliness by exploring our infographic.

The cover of infographic, Loneliness: Debunking the myths