Loneliness is one of the least comfortable experiences of the human condition, but it is not rare or uncommon. In numerous surveys of American adults, over half of participants express feeling lonely on a regular basis. Loneliness can feed symptoms of depression and isolation. This can create a negative cycle where symptoms of depression then lead to further isolation, which leads to increased feelings of loneliness. But no matter how alone you feel, know that you are never truly alone. It is important to work to strengthen your connections with your social networks, yourself, and the world around you, in order to soothe feelings of loneliness and avoid the increases of physical or mental symptoms of depression that typically follow loneliness when it is not addressed. Here are five ways to deal with loneliness:
1. Volunteer your time and energy.
One way to get out of your own head and focus on something external is to volunteer your time and energy toward a cause that you care about. This is an effective way to meet and connect with other people who may share your viewpoints and values. Altruism has many benefits, not the least of which being an increased sense of meaning and purpose. In addition to decreasing loneliness, volunteering can help you feel happier and more satisfied with life. Plus, spending time with those who also face great challenges can help you feel a deeper sense of gratitude for the positive parts of your life that might be easy to forget about or take for granted.
2. Take a class or join a club.
Another easy way to meet new people and connect with others who share your interests is to take a class or join a club. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an art class, a yoga class, a book club, or a birdwatching club. It doesn’t even matter whether you are experienced or new to the topic of interest! Amatuer and experienced hobbyists alike can often find common ground around shared interests. Those who have experience typically enjoy sharing what they’ve learned with newbies, while those who are novice but interested can gain a lot of interesting details from more experienced classmates or club members. One place to find free or very affordable classes and clubs is your local library. Local universities may also offer low-cost classes for members of the general public. Community centers and local gyms may also offer fitness and yoga classes, which can help you meet people while also taking care of your health.
3. Strengthen current relationships.
Think about your existing relationships. Are there any that you could spend more time developing? Consider aging family members, even distant relatives. Older people often crave more social contact than what their busy, younger family members have time to provide. Maybe there is someone in your family who would be delighted to spend more time with you. This would be a positive way for you to deal with your own feelings of loneliness while also helping someone else with theirs. Children in your family can also offer welcome distractions from loneliness, and their parents are likely to be thrilled to share in some of their supervisory and transportation duties. Babysitting your nieces, nephews, or other little ones can help you stay busy and fill your time with fun when you would otherwise be spending time alone.
4. Consider adopting a pet or volunteering with animals.
Domestic pets, especially cats and dogs, can help you deal with loneliness in numerous ways. First, pets are non-judgemental. No matter whether you’re having a bad day, grumpy, or sad, animals will be happy to see you when you get home. They just want your companionship, however you are feeling any given moment. Also, taking care of a pet helps you gain the benefits of altruism, similar to volunteering.
5. Talk to strangers.
Sometimes it is easy to get lost in your own little world when you are out in public. But when you pass a neighbor near your home, you can deal with your loneliness by simply saying hi and chatting about the weather. When you are waiting in line, try to resist the urge to look at your phone to pass the time. Spending more time in the present moment helps you be available for impromptu, unplanned social opportunities that can flourish into meaningful experiences of human connection if you stay open to them.
If you have tried these tips and are still struggling with feelings of loneliness, contact Chenal Family Therapy. We’ll connect you with one of our empathetic, supportive mental health professionals who can help you face these challenges. Together, you may develop your coping mechanisms so that you can deal with loneliness in a positive way.