Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings reveals how to stay positive if you are spending New Year alone and how to look out for friends who may be self-isolating
New research has further revealed just what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health.
When asked about the last 18 months, more than half of respondents (52 per cent) said that they had felt alone, and more than two in five (47 per cent) have felt undervalued at times.
A similar number (43 per cent) adults said lockdown made them realise they’d taken some of their relationships for granted.
However, 41 per cent of Brits feel there has been an increase in the ability of people to put themselves in others’ shoes since lockdown, with 46 per cent of Brits are keener to support their local community because of lockdown.
The research was carried out by social impact jewellery brand Recognised, supported by Jo Hemmings, as part of a report revealing the power of recognition and the importance it can have on our mental health.
The report reveals that feeling recognised is a step beyond empathy and can be key to us feeling valued, having a positive impact on our mental wellbeing.
“While the pandemic has undoubtedly had a major and negative impact on all of our lives, it has also given us more time – especially during periods of lockdown – to consider our lives and our approach to them, moving forward,” says Jo.
“What we once took for granted, we have now learned to appreciate.
“Everybody knows families, friends or communities that have suffered from a result of the pandemic.
“This in itself has helped our natural instincts for empathy and kindness to soar, to recognise the struggles of others and respond appropriately, as well as bringing many of us closer to and more appreciative of our own family and friends.”
Many Brits are facing the prospect of spending New Year alone either by choice or circumstance.
While it can be hard to stay positive and ease the feeling of loneliness there are steps we can take to look after our mental health as Hogmanay approaches.
Jo’s tips for spending New Year alone
It’s clear that the last 18 months incredibly tough for so many, and it is clear to see that the cost of the pandemic has been huge on people’s mental health.
This research shows we’ve all felt alone at points during the pandemic so it’s important to remember you are not alone in how you are feeling and that speaking to others can help.
Reach out and connect with loved ones even if you are physically alone this Christmas.
Get online at some planned point during the day – download Zoom or use another platform, take time to celebrate with friends or family.
It gives you something to anticipate as well as enjoy.
If you are going through a tough time, the simple act of sharing your concerns – either to friends, family or even a professional – can have a positive impact on how you are feeling.
It reduces brain activity in the amygdala, our brain’s alarm system, and verbalising our feelings make us more mindfully aware.
This self-disclosure, to someone we like and trust, can be deeply healing – reducing stress and strengthening our immune systems.
Don’t pretend the day isn’t happening, it will make you feel more isolated.
Make a plan for your day – have something lovely to eat, check out a festive movie you want to watch and think about it as a day of indulgence and self-care.
Whatever the weather brings, it is important to get some fresh air.
It is mood-boosting and will help with the feelings of isolation and sadness that being alone can often bring.
Take a walk (if you can) and if you see others, wish them a Merry Christmas, they will return the greeting, giving you a little surge of those feel-good hormones, dopamine and serotonin.
The research also revealed that although just under half (48 per cent) feel less alone when they hear people share the same struggles that they have experienced, a similar number (47 per cent) said that they suffered in silence with an issue or their feelings because they didn’t want to burden others.
How to look out for others who may be struggling
“It’s easy to get swept up in your day but if you have friends of family members you know are spending the day alone, take a moment to check in with them,” says Jo.
“Small gestures of kindness or compassion, like sending a quick text or giving someone a call, can often have a more positive impact on our wellbeing, than grand or expensive gestures.
“It shows us that people are considering our feelings as well as understanding them, which in turn immediately boosts our levels of oxytocin and serotonin – hormones which can help us feel calmer and happier – while reducing our stress hormone, cortisol.”
According to the research by Recognised, what makes Brits feel the most valued and appreciated is the simple act of someone checking in to see if they are okay.
When asked what ‘acts’ made them feel most recognised, the answers that came out on top were:
1) Someone checking in to see if I am ok (59 per cent)
2) Someone encouraging me and saying well done (47 per cent)
3) A call from someone close (46 per cent)
4) A stranger doing something kind (40 per cent)
5) A handwritten note with a meaningful message (38 per cent).
In comparison, bottom of the pile is ‘receiving likes on social media’ (9 per cent), and ‘someone flaunting cash’ (2 per cent).
“The power of recognition is to see and be seen,” says Recognised founder Anneka Wallington.
“To be seen for who you are, what you bring and the experiences in life you have faced or are facing.
“In this uncertain climate its more important than ever to be checking in with our friends and family, especially if we know they are spending the day alone.
“We can often hide the very things we need to feel seen in and it just so happens that when we’re going through the hardest seasons of our lives is often when we need to receive recognition the most.”