(Photo above by Inga Seliverstova / Pexels)
The pandemic continues on and the end of 2021 brings restricted travel or separation from loved ones who need to isolate to stay healthy. All of this on top of the ever-growing reasons we find the holidays lonely and challenging.
Buddhism teaches that happiness is within us. It also teaches that our challenges can help us become strong, big hearted people. Here are a few ideas on how to deal with loneliness this holiday season.
1. Look at the big picture.
The most difficult times in our lives can have profound meaning. They can also help us grow in ways we could have never imagined.
Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda shares with a group of Buddhist teens about his childhood:
“No education surpasses that of trials and hardships”—I hung this motto on the wall of my room and often repeated it to myself when I was 17 years old. That was during the turbulent period immediately following World War II. Experiencing unprecedented misfortune or calamity firsthand can make you deeply aware of life’s preciousness, understand others’ pain and suffering, and be ready to reach out to those in need. I therefore hope that you will grow to be fine leaders who work for people’s happiness, each of you shining brilliantly in the realm of your personal mission.
If we are lonely or struggling this holiday season, know that our situation is helping us become even more sensitive and compassionate people. In the future, we’ll know how to support others going through the same problem.
2. Remember: People care about us.
Feelings of loneliness or isolation are nothing to be ashamed of. However, when our loved ones aren’t physically with us, it’s easy to “go there” and feel like we’re all alone.
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an incredible tool for mastering our mind. When we chant, we are awakening to our Buddhability, or our essential, strong, original self. We don’t get swayed by our circumstances and instead see the truth—we are connected to and supported by other people. Chanting is an amazing way to sidestep the trap of self-pity.
3. Be there for someone else.
In What to Do When You Feel Lonely, we share how supporting other people is crucial to overcoming feelings of isolation.
When we are lonely, we typically focus on ourselves, but we can break through that downward spiral by doing something for other people. Sending a friend a supportive text, checking in on a family member, contributing to a worthy cause—all are ways we can move from being consumed by our own problems to seeing our real connection with other people.
In fact, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy writes that supporting others is the “backdoor out of loneliness.”
4. Think of ways to make the most of the situation.
Yes, we might not be able to see all the people we love, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do amazing things over the holidays! Mariella Mosthof and JR Thorpe of Bustle recommend starting a new holiday tradition just for you. There are some things that we can do this holiday that we might never be able to do again, like baking a feast of our favorite foods or listening to the entire catalogue of our favorite artist. We can also be more ambitious, if we choose, and write try a screenplay or build a chair. Regardless of what you choose to do, it’s important to think about what special opportunities we have now because this situation may not come back again.
Having limited contact with loved ones is difficult, but it doesn’t have to ruin our holiday. We can bring out our Buddhability and make the most of our time at the end of the year.
For more ideas on how to enjoy the holidays, read this article.