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Our experience of intense and prolonged loneliness is becoming more common. According to a 2021 study, 58% of Americans report experiencing feeling lonely on occasion. And a recent survey by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education indicates that 36% struggle with “serious loneliness.” Unfortunately, many of us feel this sense of emotional isolation most intensely during the holidays, regardless of whether we are surrounded by friends and family, in a relationship, or alone.
Loneliness affects everyone differently. It is a state within us, which means the feeling has little or nothing to do with our surroundings and everything to do with our sense of connection to those surroundings. You can be alone but not feel lonely, or be in a room full of people but feel isolated. We tend to become lonely when we feel disconnected not only from the world around us, but from ourselves. Prolonged loneliness can adversely affect psychological as well as physical health.
How Ayurveda can help with loneliness
The ancient health system of Ayurveda can help. According to Ayurveda, everyone is a unique combination of three doshas, or body energies: vata (air energy), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth). We contain all three elements in varying amounts, and this is ever-changing, just as we are ever-changing. (To find out your unique blend, take this quiz.)
Understanding your primary dosha can offer profound insights into how you show up to various situations in life, including loneliness. Having some sense of why you’re experiencing it can be helpful in moving through it. After all, it’s only when you own an emotion and begin to alter how you label it that you change how you respond to it.
The reasons for finding time for yourself during the holiday season to counteract loneliness are different for each dosha—you may need to put yourself first, draw a boundary with work, or stop distracting yourself from your feelings. But the underlying intention is the same: to consider what your mind and body truly need. That knowledge can help you perceive holiday loneliness, or any undesired emotion, less as a fixed state and more as a reminder to reevaluate what you need. This can be a lasting solution to making this time of year—as well as your everyday life—more fulfilling.
If your primary dosha is vata…
People with a lot of vata are airy in nature and always seem to be up to something new or going from one thing to the next. During the holidays, you may find it easy to attend too many parties, have too many drinks, or just generally try to cram too much into your schedule. All this activity can distract you from your feelings of loneliness. This can seem helpful in the moment although ignoring these emotions can eventually make you feel even more overwhelmed and despondent.
Skip a few party invitations and embrace some alone time during the holidays. Slow down. Do one thing at a time. Sit with yourself so you can sit with your loneliness. Try to accept your alone time rather than avoid it by turning it into something you desire.
One of the best things you can do is ground your energy, since all that airiness can cause restlessness, anxiety, and even insomnia. Focus on staying home more, connecting with nature, and going inward to draw on your kapha, or earth energy. Meditate more. Practice slow forms of yoga, such as Hatha, Yin, and Restorative. Massage your body with sesame oil to quiet the internal noise. Indulge in a long soak in the tub. Take a walk, even if it’s cold outside, to come back to your body and allow your mind to rest in nature.
If you can’t resist the urge to initiate something new, harness your creative thinking and come up with a daily routine that brings beauty and inspiration to your life, whether reading, painting, playing or listening to music, or being imaginative in any way.
If your primary dosha is pitta…
As a fiery pitta, you’re determined to achieve your goals and always have something going on. You tend to feel lonely when you lack control over something. The result: You might tend to obsess about work in an effort to distract yourself. Unfortunately, this just compounds your loneliness because when you’re always busy, there’s no time to devote to your relationships. Confusing your work with your identity can lead to burnout, heightening your emotional overwhelm.
During the holidays, don’t mask your inherent desire for connection, meaning, intimacy, and purpose by overbooking your schedule. Create some work-life separation. Take it easy.
Let the holidays be an opportunity for you to come back to your why. Contemplate the lifestyle you desire, your core values, and what matters to you. Create a life for yourself from an energy of devotion rather than discipline. Don’t forget to focus on the present. Turn your dedication toward your everyday life. Ease up on your caffeine habit and take a break from intense exercise so you can truly get in touch with yourself.
When you allow yourself to step back, reassess, and create a life outside of work, you can come back to your career pursuits with more efficiency and energy. You want to move into kapha, the sacred pause and grounding, so that your shift into vata, idea creation, can eventually take place.
If your primary dosha is kapha…
Earthy kaphas tend to be grounded, supportive, stable, and humorous. A natural-born empath, you constantly try to make sure everyone else is OK by checking in with your loved ones, holding space for others, and almost always putting everyone else in front of yourself.
The holiday season can be a really tough time for kaphas. Because human connection is so deeply important to kaphas, you tend to struggle when you’re not surrounded by family and friends. Even when you are in a full house, you can get so busy keeping up with others’ needs that you forget your own—which can cause a deeper sense of loneliness, sadness, and even depression.
Put yourself first. You deserve all the love you so radiantly give to others! Keeping yourself surrounded by other people and tending to their needs every moment allows you to distract yourself from your own desires. Instead, check in to see how you feel.
Rather than hide from any feelings, allow your body and your mind to move through them by journaling, dancing, or practicing yoga. Continue your daily self-care practices. Keep your lymphatic system flowing through dry-brushing, facial massage, and rebounding (stand with your knees slightly bent, arms at your side, and gently bounce by lifting and lowering your heels).
When you find a way to be in your loneliness rather than hide from it, the result will make those moments you spend with others even more meaningful.
See also: 10 Things Only Kaphas Will Understand
This article has been updated. Originally published November 15, 2021.
About our contributor
Sahara Rose is a best-selling author and host of the Highest Self Podcast, called “a leading voice for the millennial generation into the new paradigm shift” by Deepak Chopra. Connect with her on Instagram.