Sharon Kelly, LCSW is a behavioral health clinician at Atlantic Health System’s
Hackettstown Medical Center.
Q. The holiday season has been stressful, both mentally and emotionally – how can I bounce back?
A. Did you know that making connections can be fun, but studies show that it is also good for your mental health!
Some research shows that strong social ties have a positive effect on our psychological well-being. There is also data showing that loneliness is a contributing factor in depression, whereas social connections may support improvements in depression.
The holidays can be a great time to rekindle some of our social connections and give a warm boost to our mental health during the winter months. Robert Waldinger of Harvard Medical School noted that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy.”
Take a look at some of these ideas for making connections this holiday season and improving your mental health:
• Reconnect with your family or cultural holiday traditions. You might call a family member who has memories of your ancestry to get inspired. Consider updating some traditions by talking to your kids to get ideas to make things fresh.
• Make a list of important people in your life and recommit to spending time with them if possible. This can be over coffee, FaceTime or writing an old-fashioned letter.
• If you are struggling with a loss or grief this season, staying connected can be difficult but it’s important to try to get support and not isolate. Consider joining a support group, attending a religious service, or even volunteering, as a way of making connections.
• Make sure you make time for fun and joy. Make music, bake cookies, give kindness where you can with neighbors or even with strangers in the checkout line. These can be wonderful ways to connect.
Whatever you do this holiday season, be sure to make connecting with others a holiday priority. And remember, it’s good for your mental health and that is good for all of us.