We can be sailing along just fine – independent, self-contained, pursuing our own interests, plenty of friends, regular contact with family members, and then boom! – the holidays come upon us and we feel like our ship starts to sink.

There are sparkly lights and jolly decorations everywhere. Holiday music is being blared in whatever public place we enter.

Everywhere, the billboards, magazine covers, window displays and television commercials say to us, “See? See the happy families? The homes full of happy people? The warm gatherings of good friends? The wealth being liberally distributed by everybody? Except, um, you?”

And you start feeling financially constricted and alone. You feel that you are not keeping up with ‘everybody else.’

When you live alone, these sinking feelings can really pull you down. After all, there is no one in your home to join you in hanging ornaments on your tree or putting up your outdoor lights.

There is no one with you in the kitchen decorating cookies. There is no one to share a milk punch by the last light of the fire before you go to bed. At home, you are not part of ‘a gathering,’ as the world is telling you that you should be.

During the holidays, moments of loneliness that otherwise would be fleeting can take on extra strength.

In these days of political invective, sexual scandals and tragic shootings, the collective angst adds an extra layer of stress to the isolation we can feel. The holidays that are upon us could be our worst ever as far as loneliness goes.

Along with you, I’ve watched the awful news reports about politics and terrorism and natural disasters. Along with you, I’ve felt true despair about what’s going on in the world, and I’ve wished I could do something about it all.

But of course, I can’t. So I’ve decided to concentrate on one thing that I can help with, and that’s loneliness, especially during the holidays.

Many studies have confirmed that loneliness is not only distressing, it’s damaging to a person’s health and longevity.

John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, says that the effect of social isolation on health and mortality is comparable to high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking

According to Gary J. Kennedy, M.D., social isolation results in a lack of mental stimulation which increases the risk of dementia.

Here are some ways you can alleviate loneliness, especially if you live alone:

Accept Invitations from Others

I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old advice, “If you’re lonely, never say no to an invitation.” That’s pretty good thinking. People do tend to stop asking if you keep saying no, so say yes as much as you can.

Host Your Own Get-Togethers

Or, how about hosting your own soiree? There’s nothing quite like preparing for a group of friends or family who’re going to come to your home. Somehow, your house feels more welcoming when you know people are coming.

And, at the end of an evening that’s filled with laughter and conversation, shared food, wine, and convivial spirits, the presence of these friends will linger in your home along with new good memories and warm feelings, for some time.

Reach Out and Touch Your Neighbors

Bake a batch of cookies or candy and wrap up small parcels for your next-door neighbors, the family across the street, your gardener, your housecleaner. It feels good – and yes, somehow less lonely, to be industrious and giving, and to send good food and good wishes out into the world.

Consider Seeking Out a Roommate

You don’t have to commit to the idea right on the spot, but you can open the door to thinking about it. Seek out others who might be looking to live in a shared home. Talk with them online, or meet with them in person.

You don’t have to say, “I’m definitely looking for a roommate,” but rather, “I’m considering living with a roommate. Would you like to get together to talk about the idea? I’d value learning what you know and what you’ve considered in the way of sharing a home. I want to investigate the idea further.”

For a limited time, you can seek out and connect with potential roommates on Roommates4Boomers, the roommate-matching service for women over 50, free of charge. This is our effort to do more to help alleviate loneliness over the holidays for those living alone.

Simply go to their website, then click on the “Find A Match” button at the top of the page.

If you live by yourself, do the holidays tend to make you feel alone and lonely? Have you ever considered living with a roommate? Please share your thoughts and concerns about this possibility in the comments below.

Karen VenableKaren Venable is founder of Roommates4Boomers, a service for women over 50 that matches roommates using an algorithm similar to what dating sites use. Several years ago when Karen was going through a divorce, she realized how helpful it would be if there were a service that matched compatible over-50 women, so she launched Roommates4Boomers.

Let's Have a Conversation!