health

Three easy ways to check in on those who need some extra love this holiday season.

December and January is a particularly crazy time of year.

Christmas, New Year, summer (and school) holidays. It’s a lot.

It also gives you a lot of time to spend with the people closest/most important to you. Kids, partners, parents, friends. Whoever.

But if you don’t have these people, for whatever reason, it can be an extra trying time.

In 2016, eight out of ten Australians said loneliness is increasing in our society according to a survey by Lifeline.

In November, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and Swinburne University of Technology released findings from a survey of more than 1,600 Australians that confirms that loneliness is strongly connected to poorer quality of life, lower psychological wellbeing, higher social discomfort and poorer quality social networks.

So, with loneliness a clear danger in society (and exacerbated by this time of year), here are three simple ways you can check in on the people around you.

1. Check in on them.

Go for a visit. Knock on their door. Send them a message.

A simple check in to see what someone’s plans are for the holiday period and listening to what they say can make a world of difference.

Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of aged and disability care provider Afea Care Services told Mamamia loneliness is one of those things you can’t necessarily capture by looking at someone, which is why it is important to ask how they are going.

“I find that we can be so conscious of asking these things because it can be uncomfortable and we aren’t always sure how to respond if someone does start to disclose something,” she said.

“Coming from a place of kindness tends to dissolve that awkwardness and it can make a world of difference to just ask and listen. Most of the time, we don’t need to do much than just listen.”

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Oberoi said whether you are passing someone in the street or checking in on your next door neighbours, people often just need someone to listen to them.

“When I was experiencing depression, one thing I really would have benefited from was someone simply asking ‘hey, how are you?’ at a local park or on the street. I used to spend a lot of time alone in a park and I would never have anyone ask, ‘how are you? how is your day?’ It seems we are less likely to just reach out to others especially if someone looks sad, we end up avoiding them altogether. This makes people that are already lonely even more invisible in society.”

2. Invite them around.

For someone feeling lonely and isolated, reaching out can be terrifying. So they often just… don’t.

If you’re able to, inviting someone around – for anything, from Christmas lunch to a cup of tea – is an easy and effective way to ease their isolation.

Oberoi said she regularly does this for an elderly neighbour.

“When cooking for a family dinner, can you make an extra portion to bring over to an elderly neighbour?,” she said. “I do this for my neighbour who just turned 97 and still comes for a couple of hours to socialise with our friends and family whenever we host a BBQ!”

3. Volunteer.

Volunteering for a charity or organisation that offers support to vulnerable people is an obvious way to make a difference. If you’re capable of giving up a couple of hours of your time to hang out with residents at the local nursing home or food bank, you’ll make a difference to others while also having an incredibly powerful experience yourself.

Or maybe you know someone less able-bodied who might appreciate help in decorating their house for the festive period or battling crowds at the mall to buy presents?

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