How to cope with loneliness

Loneliness has become all too common nowadays. It is a challenge faced by so many of us, especially in today’s increasingly fast-paced, technologically advanced world. Whether due to retirement, the loss of a partner or spouse, or being in a new living arrangement, certain life changes can leave you feeling isolated and alone.

 

However, there are so many ways to combat loneliness and bring some joy back into your daily life. The reality is that you’re not the only one struggling. It’s likely that many people in your neighborhood and local community are experiencing loneliness, too. Today, we’re going to discuss some practical strategies to minimize or eliminate feelings of loneliness.

1. Social activities are a must.

This may be the one thing that people struggle with the most, and that is: getting out there and socializing. While this may be an obvious tip to combat loneliness, it’s often something that many of us may put off or neglect entirely. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get back into social activities if you’ve been isolated for months or years. You may feel safer in the controlled and predictable environment of your home. Maybe health issues are a factor that keeps you at home and away from people or any social settings. However, staying at home is an obvious and major culprit of loneliness.

Find local community centers, clubs, or religious organizations that offer activities tailored to your age group or interests. Join hobby groups, book clubs, educational courses at your local community college, or art classes. Volunteering is an excellent way to get out there and meet people while also being very fulfilling, allowing you to give back to your community while meeting others with similar interests.

 

2. Rekindle Old Relationships.

If meeting new people seems like something you may have to ease your way into, try reaching out to old friends or co-workers. If you’re feeling lonely, it might also be a great time to contact family members you haven’t spoken with in a while. If you feel awkward about reaching out, remember that loneliness is at pandemic proportions these days. There’s a good chance that the person or people you contact are feeling lonely, too, and will love to hear from you. Sometimes, a simple phone call, text message, or email can reignite meaningful relationships. For loved ones that may live far away, using video chat or sharing pictures and stories is a great way to connect. Technology can be intimidating, but it offers ways to stay connected with loved ones and make new friends. Learn to use video calling apps like Zoom or Skype, or join online groups and forums where you can share and interact with others.

3. Stay Active Outdoors.

You already know the many benefits of exercise for your mind and body. Going out walking in a trail or in your neighborhood, even if you go out on your own, is an excellent way to connect socially and get to know the people in your community. Oftentimes, you’ll end up seeing familiar faces if you do these activities repeatedly. With time, you can make connections and even great friendships. Take the initiative to say “hello” or “good morning,” even if you’re greeting people you don’t know. If you’re limited physically in terms of your ability to walk long distances, consider finding a nice park bench or coffee shop where you can sit and people watch. You’re likely to see regulars in places like parks and coffee shops, especially if you go at about the same time every day. Remember that seeing familiar faces makes people feel more comfortable. You’re no longer strangers if you’ve been seeing the same person over and over again, so it’s more likely that others will be open to talking and getting to know you.

 

4. Pets Make Excellent Companionship.

If you’re able to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet, consider getting one, as this is a great way to minimize loneliness. Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, help you maintain a routine, and encourage you to stay active by going on daily walks. Interacting with other pet owners is a great ice breaker if it’s difficult for you to talk to people you don’t know. Dogs, for instance, aren’t as shy as people, so they’ll typically walk up to another person or dog without hesitation, allowing you the opportunity to chat with others. If you can’t or don’t want to take on the work required to care for a pet, there are animal therapy programs or shelters that you can volunteer in that may offer opportunities to interact with animals without the full-time commitment of having one of your own.

 

5. It’s Okay to Seek Support for Loneliness.

Loneliness in itself is not a mental health disorder, but with time, it can often lead to depression or anxiety. Don’t hesitate to tell your primary care provider about how you’re feeling and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Your family doctor may also be able to refer you to a support group.

 

Coping with loneliness involves taking some steps to seek out social interactions, finding activities you enjoy doing, and embracing technological and community resources. Reaching out for help, whether from a friend, family member, or professional, is often an important step toward rebuilding a supportive network. Loneliness is all too common these days, so remember that you’re not alone if you’ve been feeling a need for connection. Many people feel just as you do, so it only takes a few steps outside of your comfort zone and you’ll be able to benefit from the renewed quality of life that comes with social connection.

 

Arnold Gillo, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Therapist, a Behavioral Health Consultant, and the Clinical Program Planner for State of Nevada ICF Program.