All on your Bridget Jones...

Being single is exciting - fashionable, even. Then Christmas comes along...

The admission of loneliness is social death. Ironic, no? You might as well own up to genital herpes as confess that being single isn't all Bridget Jones's Diary, disposable income and exciting, carefree sex with a succession of attractive partners. In view of this, and given that Christmas is such a bloody horrible time to be alone, we publish Single Again's Tips For Christmas. Single Again, an organisation which offers free "support and practical information to anyone who is on their own", points out that "25 per cent of all households in the UK are made up of single people. Of these, 65 per cent are separated, divorced or widowed. Nearly one in three says that they are lonely."

TIPS FOR A SINGLE CHRISTMAS

Try not to ignore the fact that Christmas is coming simply because you are on your own and not sure what to do. Take time out to plan for the holidays so that you are not in a position of feeling alienated and lonely when Christmas finally arrives.

Welcome invitations to share Christmas with another family - so many people from all walks of life are on their own at this time of year that there is nothing to feel embarrassed about. Once you have accepted an invitation, from friends or extended family, they are likely to make a special effort to ensure you enjoy yourself.

Don't wait for friends or others to beat a path to your door - take an active role in creating festivities. By taking action, you may find yourself invited to other events.

To give yourself something to prepare for and look forward to, try throwing a "Boxing Day Leftovers Party" - many people make few plans on Boxing Day, so they are more likely to be free to stop by at some time during the day. Prepare the main course for a buffet and invite people to bring a dish of their own. Go through your address book and invite as many people as you can, welcoming them to bring a friend or family member along. You'll be surprised at how many will take up the invitation!

Consider doing some volunteer work over the Christmas season - it can be very gratifying helping others, particularly if you are feeling a bit low yourself.

If you do prefer your own company over Christmas, try to avoid over- indulging in TV viewing - many programmes are likely to emphasise happy family scenes which, especially if you are newly single, may leave you feeling a bit down.

While you are sending cards, take the opportunity to re-establish contact with old friends you haven't seen for a long time - perhaps go through old letters and address books. This can generate new social opportunities for the New Year.

You can organise festive outings for yourself alone, or with a friend, for example: going to a Christmas Carol Concert, Midnight Mass, a pantomime, an evening stroll to see Christmas lights. Check at your local community centre or library for details of Christmas events happening near you.

Decorating your home can be a very positive and therapeutic project if you are spending the holidays alone. Clearing and sorting out your possessions is a good way to make a fresh start for the New Year.

Contact Single Again on 0181 749 3745 or by e-mail at mikehalson@aol.com

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