Alone for the holidays? Here's how to find joy in the solitude

Updated 1:23 PM ET, Mon November 23, 2020

(CNN)'Tis the season to stay home and stay safe. That means no more raucous get-togethers with extended family, being relegated to the kids' table or figuring out how to politely decline Grandma's fruitcake.

We know spending the holidays on our own will keep our loved ones healthy. That doesn't make it any easier.
But there's joy to be found in solitude. We spoke to experts in stress and connection who told us how to navigate the complicated emotions around spending the holidays alone. It may not be easy or ideal, but we humans are capable of withstanding more than we know, including lonely holidays.

Embrace your feelings

First -- the holidays will feel different this year. And whether spending them on your own brings up grief, relief or something you didn't expect, you should lean into those emotions. It's healthy to feel them rather than shove them back down.
But leaning too deeply into the negativity can ground you in it for longer than you'd like.
"We should recognize what our feelings are and what they're telling us," says Lynn Bufka, the American Psychological Association's associate executive director for practice research and policy. "But sitting in that doesn't help."
So try out some positive distractions -- reading a good book, going for a walk or taking on a cooking project all put your mind and body to work.
If you still find yourself in a funk, that's OK, too, says Jonathan Kanter, a psychologist who heads the University of Washington's Center for the Science of Social Connection. There's no right or wrong way to feel right now. Self-compassion is key.
And if all else fails, he says, you can wake up the next morning and try all over again.

Make the day your own

You're on your own this year -- time to play by your own rules. Bufka says doing whatever you want this holiday will make it a bit more fun.
"Think of it as an opportunity to slow down and do the things that you want to do," she says.
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