UTAH (ABC4) — Nearly one-quarter of adults in Utah live with some form of depression. During the holidays, emotions of loneliness can be especially hard to overcome for those with depression and without. An assistant professor from Utah State University Extension shares ways to overcome loneliness during this holiday season.  

It’s supposed to be the merriest time of the year. However, for millions of Americans, the holidays can prove to be the saddest time of the year.  

“I saw the need and I was truly thinking about people who are single,” said Cindy Jenkins, USU Extension Assistant Professor. “And the more I thought about it, the more I did some research, the more I recognized anybody can feel lonely during the holiday season.”  

Millions of Americans experience depression and sadness during the fall and winter months. The holidays can add to this, or even cause it on their own. According to the Utah Department of Health, the self-reported lifetime depression rate is 24 percent in Utah compared to the national average of 20 percent. 

As even more people will feel alone with the holidays here, Jenkins used her research to find methods people can use to overcome the loneliness they feel during this time of year.  

Again, it’s not just people who have depression who may feel lonely during the holidays. It can affect anyone, especially those who have had a change in their financial situation and those who don’t feel like they have a lot of social connections.

There are many different methods and exercises people can use to overcome these feelings, as reported in an article by Jenkins called “Ask an Expert — Combating Loneliness During the Holidays.”

The first is service.

“Even something as little as sending an encouraging text to someone else or sending a gratitude to someone else,” Jenkins said.

Thinking about ways to serve others, she explained, helps pull the focus away from oneself and the thoughts that may be causing someone to feel lonely.  

The second is gratitude. Again, Jenkins said that it can be simple.

“You think okay, ‘I really want to focus on my gratitude,’” she said. “And then, you decide to do a gratitude journal. Try to do that every day, write down a few things that you are grateful for. If you’re in an especially hard place, you might do a full page, I’ve done that before.”  

The third is self-love. Jenkins said that this method may seem counterproductive. However, she explained that doing something special, and needed, is a great way to improve one’s mental health.

“It’s not about time where it’s you and the TV, or you and the social media time. Nope. This is you and you time,” she said.

She added that it could be going on a date with oneself, going to a spa, going to a nice dinner, activities that are out of the routine and bring happiness.

The fourth is social connectedness.

“Reach out, right? Make a phone call, do something nice for someone else – a friend, a loved one – invite someone over,” Jenkins said.

Those who are feeling lonely may be isolating themselves unintentionally. Make it a habit to get in contact with friends and family on a regular basis.  

Jenkins emphasized that all these steps should be practiced regularly overtime to help overcome loneliness.

“Take the first step,” she said. “If you’re feeling a little down or you know somebody else, just reach out and do the little thing first.”