It isn’t easy trying to maintain a sense of community and connection as the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop in winter. This can cause an accompanying sense of isolation during the colder months can lead to feelings of loneliness that last throughout the season.
Isn’t it interesting how closely our minds and bodies are interconnected? A study of 78 participants suggests that how warm we feel internally can have an influence on the feeling of loneliness and whether or not we seek social interactions.
We’re going to dive even further into this cosy connection and give you some tips on ways to stay warm to lighten feelings of loneliness this winter.
Why do we feel lonelier in winter?
It’s only natural that our social interactions are reduced during the colder months of the year, however, our lower-than-usual exposure to natural sunlight can also present feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many of us experience the ‘winter blues’ or Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression related to the change in seasons and is often linked to reduced daylight hours during the colder months of the year.
Warmth and mental health
When we’re exposed to warmth our bodies trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin (also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’) which not only helps us to feel less lonely but also helps with combatting symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The benefits of feeling warm go much further beyond temporary relief, regular exposure has been shown to increase overall resilience and coping mechanisms resulting in more positive mental health outcomes.
Can feeling lonely make us feel colder?
So, we now know that physical warmth can ease feelings of loneliness. However, it also turns out that this is a double-edged sword and that feeling lonely and isolated can also cause a sensation of being cold.
There’s an investigation that was conducted by The University of Toronto which revealed that individuals who recollected instances of social exclusion and loneliness had an average body temperature that was 3 degrees lower than those who reminisced about positive social connections.
I’m sure we’ve all felt left out at some point and we’ve felt that chill creeping in, making us feel cold and alone. This is actually our body's natural response to the feeling of being excluded and going into ‘cold’ mode.
Ways to stay warm
Wearing warm jumpers or thick cardigans will keep your body temperature up
Use blankets to wrap around yourself for extra insulation
Make yourself a hot drink, this will warm you up from the inside out
Light candles to create a cosy atmosphere
Ensure you’re eating health foods packed with vitamins and minerals. Soups and stews are particularly delicious in winter
Try doing some yoga
Spend time with loved ones, companionship will provide you with a sense of warmth
Wear thick socks and slippers
Important: not everyone can afford to have their heating up high constantly. Have a think if there's anyone you know who might be struggling to stay warm or is feeling lonely this winter and provide support where you can.
Finding connection in the winter months
If you’re feeling lonely during the winter, it can be tough to find ways to connect with other people. But remember, it’s a necessity to prioritise socialising, even when it’s cold outside and you may not feel up to it.
Why not look into:
Joining a social club – this can be such a great way to meet others who share similar interests
Volunteer – you’ll be giving back as well as connecting with other people. Check out our volunteering opportunities
Schedule regular video or phone with loved ones that you may not be able to see physically
Organise going for a walk with a friend or neighbour – you’ll be getting fresh air and exercise as well as social connection
As the chill of winter begins to draw closer and the days become shorter, it’s so easy to become isolated and lonely, even if we don’t realise it’s happening to begin with. One of the best ways we can combat this, as the studies above have shown, is to keep warm and ensure we still prioritise being social even when it’s cold outside.
At Marmalade Trust we believe in the strength of community and connection, and we encourage you to reach out to those who might be struggling or for help if you need it. Together we’ll keep that spirit alive.
A huge thank you to Marmalade Trust supporter and writer, Hannah Walters for putting together this excellent advice for our readers.