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Updated 27 November 2013

On your own for Christmas?

If you're spending Christmas alone, ironically you've got lots of company. Not everyone is surrounded by scores of friends and family on this day.

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If you're spending Christmas alone, ironically you've got lots of company. Many people are either far from home, or their loved ones have died, or they have recently moved to a new place – not everyone is surrounded by scores of friends and family.

So what can you do to make this day easier for yourself?

Accept that you're on your own. There's no need to beat yourself up about this. In everyone's life there will be at least one birthday or Christmas that will be spent alone. Accept it and don't see it as a personal failure on a grand scale. Try to avoid getting depressed and stressed out.

Find someone else who's in the same boat. Even if this person is not entirely your cup of tea, it is more cheerful to eat with someone than on your own on this day. Make the effort to invite this person – you can always split the cooking.

Volunteer at a charity. Or at an old age home or at the local hospital. There are institutions that are very busy on Christmas day and who are operating on a skeleton staff. Everyone should be extremely grateful to you for your assistance. Try and organise this beforehand - do a bit of phoning around. And it will be a good reminder that not everyone has fun in the sun on Christmas day.

Avoid places that will depress you. Don't go to a restaurant where you will be confronted with large groups of family members. It will make you feel more lonely, not less.

Book comedy videos in advance. No grim thrillers on this day. Cheer yourself up and have a good laugh. There are always good TV programmes on this day. Check the TV schedule.

Check local church activities. Many churches have services on this day. Even if you are not particularly religious, go anyway. It will do you good to be surrounded by lots of people who are singing and happy.

Avoid being self-destructive. A drinking binge or a food binge will only make you feel ill. This is not a day for self-destructive behaviour.

Earn some money on this day. Caterers, cleaners and babysitters come at a very high premium on this day. Find something that you can do, offer to help in some way, and make yourself some money.

This too shall pass. Accept that this day, even if it turns out to fairly miserable, will come to an end. Two weeks later, you will probably have forgotten all about it.

Go for a walk. Find somewhere beautiful to go for a walk. An endorphin rush will do your mood a lot of good, and moping around at home definitely will not.

Phone a friend. Phone friends or family who are far away – this will always cheer you up. If you have no one to speak to and you feel truly miserable, there's always a friendly voice at the end of the line at Lifeline 24 hours a day.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2011)

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