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A Kansas City psychologist has ideas for being less lonely during the holidays

A woman wearing headphones speaks into a microphone in a radio studio.
Claudia Brancart
KCUR 89.3

The holiday season is expected to be filled with joy and social gatherings, but it can also be an incredibly isolating time for many. A University Health psychologist offers some suggestions for getting out of the house and making connections.

If you're feeling lonely during the holiday season, you're not alone.

A new Meta-Gallup survey found that one in four people worldwide feel very or fairly lonely. And for the first time, earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory highlighting concerns about the number of Americans experiencing loneliness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that the advisory “lays out a national strategy to advance social connection" and has recommendations for individuals, governments, workplaces and more to increase connections in their communities.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, University Health psychologist Dr. Abbey Gripka says she's seen that people have become more isolated. Even small actions can make us feel more together, Gripka says, especially during the holiday season when loneliness can hit especially hard.

"Getting out of your home, being around other people, that does give you more of an opportunity to have an opportunity to engage," Gripka told KCUR's Up To Date. "If you do get out, you might have a kind conversation with someone, someone might hold the door open for you, that tiny little interaction can help you feel a little bit more connected."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Elizabeth Erb is a production intern for KCUR 89.3's Up To Date. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. You can email her at eerb@kcur.org.
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