Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
 / Updated  / Source: TODAY

For many of us, the holidays are a time to get together with family and friends and enjoy the season. But the holidays can also be a time when people feel lonely and depressed. On NBC’s “Today” show, psychologist Dale Atkins shares some advice to help you beat the holiday blues. Read some of her tips below.

This holiday season will be different from past holidays. Many of us will be coming to grips with the new world as we know it. Some of us will be suffering from loss, or the loss of a sense of security and peace.

How will this affect family dynamics this year?
Many of us are frazzled by the events that have taken place this year, and are looking forward to going home and being with our families, but it’s not always an ideal reunion.

Some of us are feeling lonelier this year. While many of us have felt lonely during holidays of the past, this year could be worse. Whether you’ve actually suffered a loss or not, it’s a sentimental time filled with memories, so people may already be feeling sad and lonely. The best antidote is to keep busy and help others.

If you’re alone and by yourself, call your pastor and see if someone needs a ride to church, or try to do small things, something to help build your community.

Why are people lonely during the holidays?
People often focus on what they don’t have. And they don’t spend time on what they do have. It’s a state of mind. They don’t realize it’s temporary. They focus on memories of when they were younger, or when they had someone — a partner. We are a society oriented toward partnering. When people don’t have a family or someone to be with, they often feel sad.

How to beat the loneliness
Pay attention to what you do have. Focus on the people who are still with you and how they can enrich your life because you only get one shot at life.

Afterall, if you’re missing someone who has passed on, the last thing they would want is for you to be sad and depressed. The best way to honor them is to live a full and rich life, being the best person you can be.

If you’re feeling blue, reach out to help others. It takes your mind off of your own troubles and makes you feel good. Serve at a soup kitchen or get toys for the needy.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t go there; self pity is the worst thing to do.

If you are blue about losing a feeling of safety and security after 9/11, work hard to create peace within your family and community. Get involved in your neighborhood. Every person in life suffers loss, and people often don’t give themselves enough credit to rebound. We have this amazing internal fortitude to recover.

It is important to remember that life is precious, that time is precious and that endurance is precious. We can “take” any tragedy if we remember these things.

If you feel lonely, then it’s time to meet people. But many people who are lonely make up excuses, such as: “I’m too busy; other people don’t like me; I can’t find people like me.” It’s time to take responsibility for having other people in your life. Reach out to people. Invite someone to go somewhere with you. Take the initiative.

How to deal with loss
Make a candle centerpiece with a candle for each person who has passed away. Light a candle for those who are not with you. Talk about them and share memories. Show pictures from family trips. Pass along their stories to the younger generations so they are not forgotten.

Continue a tradition they started, like serving grandmother’s recipes, going to church service, serving at a soup kitchen before dining with your family.

Schedule activities that are familiar and comforting and bring you joy.

Surround yourself with people.

If it’s too painful to be with happy people, rent some old favorite movies or some good movies you always wanted to see. Surround yourself with good books, mysteries, biographies — good escape literature.

Invite new people into your life. Go to concerts or social events. Offer to drive people to church or to meetings. Even if your enjoyment capability is 50 percent as opposed to 100 percent, participate to some degree.

Accept help from others.

Don’t isolate yourself.

Volunteer at a hospital, convalescent home or rehabilitation facility.

Read to children or older people.

Buy Thanksgiving dinner and deliver it to someone.

Take a class that will have a good beginning, middle and end, or a weekend, or one-day session in flower arranging, furniture refinishing, knitting, crocheting or cooking.

Try not to make important decisions during the holidays.