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NEWS ARTICLE

Researcher: how to beat loneliness at Christmas

Dr Buaphrao Raphiphatthana helping to wrap Christmas presents with Somerville volunteers at a local shopping centre.uare.
Dr Buaphrao Raphiphatthana helps out the Somerville Christmas wrapping volunteers (from left) Allison O'Connor, Edelwisa Arevolo and Diana Basy at Casuarina Square. Dr Raphiphatthana says volunteering at Christmas time is one way to feel less lonely and isolated.

Territorians are being reminded to recognise signs of loneliness at Christmas time as many people face the festive period alone or with feelings of isolation.

Charles Darwin University’s Dr Buaphrao Raphiphatthana, mental health researcher with the Menzies School of Health Research, said despite global connectedness, many people in today’s society felt isolated and alone.

“Feelings of loneliness are normal, and it is okay to feel lonely at times,” Dr Raphiphatthana said.

“But feeling alone and isolated can contribute to mental illness, which may have serious consequences especially if people are not able to get help.”

Dr Raphiphatthana said feelings of loneliness and isolation could occur due to a range of factors from physical separation from family and friends, to a lack of meaningful connection.

“Living and working conditions, major life transitions, such as moving away from family and friends, relationship breakdowns, and becoming parents can all contribute to feelings of isolation,” she said.

“With the advancement of technology, we are more connected than ever before, but our connections can be less meaningful. You can feel lonely even when you are not alone.”

Signs that it might be time to seek help may include interrupted sleep patterns, major changes to regular daily activities, feeling unwell or having a low mood, and reduced self-esteem.

“The good news is there are steps we can all take to overcome loneliness or to help others in our community to feel more connected, particularly over Christmas,” Dr Raphiphatthana said.

“If you are worried about being lonely at Christmas, plan ahead. There are many volunteer opportunities around Christmas or on Christmas day. Not only does this mean you have company on Christmas, you also get a good feeling from helping out.

“Rather than scrolling through newsfeeds, use Facebook to reach out to friends and plan activities.

“Find out who is else is going to be around for the holidays and organise an ‘orphan’s Christmas’ – a get together with other people who may be alone for Christmas.”

Dr Raphiphatthana said getting out into nature, reflecting on good memories and setting intentions for the year ahead could also create positive feelings of wellbeing.

“Reflect on the past year and what you have been grateful for, the connections you have made and what has made you feel good,” she said. “Even better, reach out to the people who you are grateful for and let them know.

“Most importantly, know that feelings of loneliness are experienced by many, but these feelings can be addressed by reaching out to those around you.”

For more information about how to tackle loneliness over the Christmas period, visit https://5waystowellbeing.org.au/ - a resource with handy wellbeing tips.

If you or someone you know is struggling over the festive period, resources and help can be found at https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

There are many volunteer opportunities across the Territory in the lead up to Christmas and on Christmas Day. Visit https://www.somerville.org.au/news/volunteers-needed for more information on how to get involved in present wrapping and https://www.volunteeringsa-nt.org.au/ for more local volunteering opportunities.