Family, Self

7 Ways Singles Can Beat The Holiday Blues

Are you single? Does your family live far away? Is this your year to not have the children? Perhaps your ex got custody of the "friends" you shared when you were together? Or maybe you just want to do something different this season?

Being single during the month of December can pose challenges that you don't have to think about at other times of the year. People who are newly single may struggle as they try to figure out what to do when there isn't a built-in place to go for the holidays. Because I was single a long time between my two marriages, I needed to come up with activities to keep the holiday doldrums away. I found that being proactive ahead of time not only guaranteed I'd have something to do, it also gave me something to look forward to.

My single friend, Pat, has been telling me she doesn't know what to do for the holidays this year. For a variety of reasons, she's on her own this season and feels short on options. She mentioned that she might spend part of the day meditating, something she finds personally fulfilling. However, her tone of voice led me to believe it would feel very solitary if that were her only option.

This prompted me to dig out and share with her some things I did before I remarried. Here are a few ideas for singles this holiday season:

  1. Reach out. Put out the word to other singles who don't have plans for the holidays and ask them to invite their single friends, too. Perhaps you could have a potluck dinner and movie. How about watching White Christmas?
  2. Go caroling. Organize a caroling event in your neighborhood.
  3. Visit neighborhood lights. Your local newspaper or city hall will list the neighborhoods that pull out all the stops in terms of holiday decorating. You can go alone or assemble a group of friends and drive (or walk) through the decorated streets. The neighborhoods often have music playing and some even hand-out cookies and candy canes—your evening can become quite festive!
  4. Attend services your local house of worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
  5. Volunteer for a charity. Many charities (fire and police department, scouting organizations, churches, etc.) ask for donations of gifts for children. They need volunteers to sort and wrap these.
  6. Soup kitchens always need volunteers for Thanksgiving. In my area, the kitchens are closed on Christmas Day (so employees can spend the day with families), but volunteers are needed before and after Christmas Day.
  7. Hospital visits can be heartwarming for both the patients and yourself. I have a friend who does this on a regular basis. Once a month she puts glitter on her face, grabs her magic wand and a bag of goodies (hairbands, friendship bracelets, matchbox cars, etc.) and goes to the children's hospital to bring cheer to sick children.

During my single years, one activity in particular brought me an incredible amount of warmth and happiness. I stopped by a local assisted living facility and asked if there were people there who wouldn't have visitors on Christmas Day. They said yes.

I told them I'd like to come by and visit on Christmas Day because I didn't have family in town either. At first, the staff was hesitant. They wanted to know how much I would charge. I explained there was no charge—I felt I would get back from their residents as much as I hoped to give to them. After a few more questions, they OK'd my plan.

The next week, I purchased inexpensive snowmen tea light candle holders, filled them with candy kisses (instead of candles) and wrapped each one in cellophane.

On Christmas morning, I arrived with my gifts in hand and was escorted to the library. About 10 minutes later, an elegantly dressed woman came in and sat across from me. We chatted about her amazing travel experiences. Soon after this, a man wearing a great hat arrived by wheelchair and joined our conversation, talking about his many fascinating careers.

As others joined us, the topic shifted to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Pretty soon, the room was full and it felt like a party. Everyone loved the snowmen filled with kisses. Later, the staff took me to visit those who couldn't come to the library. I went to the TV room, the craft room and a few guest rooms to hand out gifts.

Then I was escorted to the dining room and all my "new friends" wanted me to sit at their table—I ended up changing tables a few times during the meal. When I left at the end of lunch (and after many many hugs), I truly felt I had received 10 times more than I had given.

So, back to my single friend Pat. She called yesterday to tell me about her holiday activities. She's found four friends who also didn't have any plans. Two of the four friends have siblings in the same situation. The group has already set up not one, but two dinners together. And one of the friends has taken responsibility for finding neighborhoods with holiday lights and decorations.

I could hear the excitement in Pat's voice. I was thrilled to know there would be holiday magic for her this year. Starting to think about this now will ensure you have happy activities to carry you through the end of 2013. What treasure is out there, just waiting to bring you warmth and fulfillment this holiday season?

More single advice from YourTango: