If you are among the 46 percent of Americans who frequently find themselves feeling lonely, the holidays can pose quite a challenge to your sense of well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, the holidays often exacerbate stress and depression. And for those already struggling to receive the meaningful social interaction they crave on any sort of regular basis, the resulting loneliness can be especially intense in contrast to others’ holiday celebrations.

A great therapist can go a very long way in helping you through these most difficult moments; another resource that can make a world of difference is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the opposite of worrying and ruminating. It gives you an opportunity to accept yourself and your feelings as you are, right here and now, and also to gift yourself with the self-care and compassion you need to make a positive shift within.

If you’re feeling lonely this holiday season – or ever! – try these mindfulness tools.

1. Observe Yourself Without Judgment: When you feel the intensity of a particularly challenging emotion welling up inside of you, see if you can call it out for what it is – i.e., “Oh, that’s anger. Oh, that’s worry.” Allow yourself to observe it with curiosity, not judging it but simply being aware of it. This is the heart of mindfulness. It will take some practice, but once you notice these feelings, you can work with them, giving yourself room to breathe and changing your relationship to them.

2. Comfort Yourself with Soothing Touch: Put a hand over your heart. Wrap your arms around yourself. Give yourself a gentle touch on the cheek or shoulder or your belly. Wherever touch feels most soothing and comforting to you, give that to yourself. This gentle touch activates your body’s mammalian caregiver response and releases oxytocin and opiates in your brain to counteract cortisol, the stress hormone. Try different spots out on yourself and see what works for you. If you’re in public and feel the need for comfort yet want to be discreet, pick a soothing touch that isn’t as obvious to others, such as softly holding your arms or placing one hand in the other.

3. Tell Yourself What You Most Need to Hear: What do you wish someone would say to you right now? What words would be most comforting or soothing to hear? Do you need to be told you are loved? Safe? Strong? Capable? Whatever you most need to hear right now, create a phrase and repeat it as a mantra to yourself. You can do this silently in your head or out loud depending on whether you’re in ear shot of others. For example, try:

· I am loved and appreciated.
· I am safe.
· I am valued.
· I am strong and capable.
· I accept myself just as I am.

You might also want to try a free guided meditation, such as those on the Insight Timer App.

4. Stay Grounded: Place your feet on the ground and send your attention down to the soles of your feet. How do they feel? Are you in socks and shoes? Barefoot? Cold or warm? Moist or dry? The act of doing this breaks the seemingly unending loop of troubling thoughts and emotions. You can also ground yourself with a “here and now stone.” Feel it, look at it, notice everything about it. Focusing on the stone is also a great way to break away from the hold of painful thoughts and feelings.

5. Spend Quality Time with a Pet: For those of you who don’t have a pet, it doesn’t even have to be your pet! As illustrated by the work and research of groups like animal-welfare initiative Mutual Rescue, animals can have a life-changing positive impact on people. Practice being mindfully present with a pet. Let some of their unconditional love touch your life and see for yourself.

Mindfulness doesn’t work in a vacuum. You have to practice it even when you don’t need it so that you can use it when you need it most. It’s not a substitute for therapy, and it’s not a substitute for medicine if you need it. It is, however, a powerful and effective way to give yourself more space between you and emotional overwhelm. Take a breath, observe and appreciate, and gift yourself with self-compassion you need to get through this moment with grace and gentleness.

Author's Bio: 

About: Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.