10 Not-Easy Ways To Combat Loneliness
4. Reevaluate your social media use
The 2018 Cigna report on the effect of loneliness on health found that social media use alone was not an indicator of loneliness. But other studies have found that high rates of social media use does correspond to loneliness, so which is it?
The key is how we use social media. If we use social media platforms to maintain and build on our in-person relationships, then it can be a great tool for helping us stay connected. However, if we are using social media simply to interact with people we’ve never met, it can cause us to feel more isolated, especially when we look at pictures of people hanging out and having fun. Social media is especially harmful when we use it when we’re already feeling lonely as it can reinforce the idea that everyone is more connected than we are.
Social media also allows us to focus on things that divide us, like political views, without showcasing the aspects that bring us together, whereas those connections are more obvious when we interact in person.
5. Embrace your alone time
We’ve already acknowledged that loneliness and being alone are not the same, but learning to enjoy being with yourself can help build your self-confidence and combat loneliness. Try to set aside time each week (daily, if possible) doing things that feed your well-being. Try reading a book just for fun, doing something creative, going for a walk, or praying. Try to incorporate activities that make you feel grateful for what you have rather than focused on what you don’t.
Learning to embrace time alone will help you get to know a very important friend—yourself!
6. Start small
When we feel disconnected, the idea of creating a social network is terrifying. But be encouraged that even little bits of human connection can be a big help. Make an effort to build more human interaction into your day. Put away your phone and go through the in-person checkout line at the grocery store, say “good morning” in the elevator, call a family member on your lunch break, or hold the door open for someone. These small actions may never lead to a traditional friendship, but they can help you feel more positively about the world around you.
Not sure what to say? Compliments are always welcome—as long as you really mean them!
7. Focus on others
It’s not that lonely people are selfish, it’s that loneliness tends to turn thoughts inward and reduce someone’s ability to think of others. But this only increases loneliness!
If you can find a way to make someone else’s day brighter, you’ll boost your mood and feel more connected to the best part of humanity. Plus, if you do something for others, you’ll have less time to focus on lonely thoughts. Try small acts of kindness, volunteering, buying a homeless person a meal, or bringing treats to a neighbor. Your act of kindness could mean the world to someone and remind you of how valuable you are!
8. Adopt a pet!
This is definitely not the right choice for everyone, but if you are an animal lover, adopting a furry friend can combat loneliness from multiple angles: it takes the focus off yourself, helps you meet others, and provides a faithful companion. Studies have shown that dog owners at at less risk of premature death, especially among those who live alone (the group most at risk for loneliness). Pets are also great ice-breakers and can bring meaning to your life apart from your human relationships.
9. Be patient with yourself
There’s pressure to be successful, beautiful, and well-connected right now. It seems that everyone we see (at least on TV and the internet) is all of those things and a size four. But in reality, relationships, at least the worthwhile ones, take time.
Ellen Hendriksen, clinical psychologist, says that it takes between six and eight conversations to make a friend. The good news is that if people are kind to each other and see each other often, they generally make friends. So seek out situations where you are likely to meet kind people on a regular basis, and then relax. Be yourself and be kind, and don’t beat yourself when things move slowly!
10. Seek help
The fact that loneliness is common doesn’t decreases its seriousness. Even if we manage to escape the major health risks of loneliness, it still robs our lives of joy and makes us afraid to try new things. A mental health professional can be a big help, even if it’s just for a session or two. If you have health insurance through your employer, see if they have an employee assistance program. These programs usually offer a number of free over-the-phone sessions for a variety of mental health issues.
If you’re not ready to seek out a therapist, try talking to a friend or family member. You’ll have to be brave and vulnerable, but it’s worth the effort to find some support and a listening ear. If even that feels too intimidating, look for a support group online where people share their struggles and victories, but be wary of groups that are negative or make you feel worse than before.
You are worth the effort! Please, if you struggle with loneliness, find the help that you need and seek situations that make you feel worthwhile and valuable… because you are!
Stay healthy, friends!