Knowing how to deal with loneliness is crucial because everyone will experience loneliness at some point in their lives. You may notice the feeling more during holidays, Valentine’s Day and times of extreme stress.
A January 2020 survey of 10,000 adults by Cigna found that 61% said they were lonely. This is a high number considering the sheer number of adults in the United States who feel lonely. Often, however, people do not discuss their feelings of loneliness and they do not know how to cope with them.
There are many kinds of people who are lonely, and it is not a condition that only certain people suffer from. In fact, loneliness can affect everyone at any point in their lives, whether they are young, old or somewhere in between.
People experiencing a break-up, divorce, or the death of a loved one, as well as the elderly, struggle with loneliness on a regular basis. The results of a recent loneliness survey by Cigna reveal that almost every generation is feeling more lonely than Generation Z adults (18-22)1.
Loneliness is not just emotionally painful, it can have many other effects as well:
- Depression: Researchers published a study in Lancet Psychiatry in 2021 that found low levels of loneliness correlated with depressive symptoms in a group of older adults 50 and older. There is also evidence that loneliness and depression are mutually reinforcing.
- Physical health: There has been a link between emotional stress and lowered immunity. Studies have also shown an association between loneliness and health problems. Lonely people are prone to a range of health issues because they are isolated.
- Physical pain: Researchers have found that the same brain regions that experience social exclusion also process physical pain, explaining the oft-romanticized notion of a “broken heart.”
Many different factors can lead to loneliness, which can have long-term effects on your emotional health and physical health. What you can do if you’re feeling lonely is to take action.
How to deal with loneliness
The following are nine strategies to help you deal with loneliness.
Join a club or class
A club or class exposes you to people with at least one interest in common with you, whether it’s an art class, exercise class or book club. You can also check your city’s parks and recreation department as well as the local library or community college.
The feeling of belonging that comes with belonging to a group can also be enhanced by taking part in a class or club. Taking this part of the day can help stimulate creativity, keep you motivated, and keep you from feeling lonely throughout the day.
The benefits of volunteering for a cause you believe in can be similar to those of taking classes or joining clubs: you’ll meet new people and experience something new. You can also improve your quality of life through it because it can bring the benefits of altruism.
It can also decrease loneliness and enhance happiness and satisfaction. A deeper sense of gratitude can also be gained from working with those who have less than you do. This is the best practice to deal with loneliness.
Find support online
There are many people looking for someone to connect with online due to loneliness being a somewhat widespread problem. Join Facebook or Meetup groups dedicated to your passions to connect with people who share your interests. Check your apps to see if they have social elements or discussion boards, like fitness apps or workout apps.
Even though you should be careful of who you meet online (and obviously, you shouldn’t divulge personal information like your bank account number), you can find true support, friendship, and connection from people you meet online.
If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness from social media or FOMO, be sure to check in with yourself if you’re feeling this way.
Strengthen existing relationships
Perhaps you already have friends or family whose connections you could deepen or people you could learn more about. Consider calling more often, going out with friends more, and finding new ways to strengthen relationships?
Getting in touch with your loved ones might be a challenge if you’re struggling to find the motivation. Just one supportive family member or friend who you could reach out to would suffice. A strong social support system can also assist with your mental health, which is reassuring to know.
Adopt a pet
Many people find that having pets, particularly dogs and cats helps deal with loneliness. Companionship and altruism are combined with rescuing a pet, and it also combats loneliness in several ways.
Dog walks open you up to the dog walking community, and it’s hard to resist a cute dog on a leash. Additionally, pets offer unconditional love, which can help to alleviate loneliness.
Talk to strangers
Getting to know a stranger or acquaintance in a small way is a good way to make connections. Studies have shown that it is beneficial to our social and emotional well being to do so. You should definitely talk to someone next time you are out for a stroll or grabbing a coffee. It might just make you feel better.
Do you frequently check your phone when you are out and about? Consider putting it away more often. It’s no surprise that technology can make it harder to engage in social activities, whether you’re looking up directions or checking the news.
If you feel lonely, be sure to take steps to take care of yourself in other ways. Even when you feel down, taking care of yourself is a good idea. You will feel better in the long run if you eat nutritious food, exercise, and get enough sleep. Exercise and socializing can be achieved by joining a class or running club.
Make a date with yourself to distract yourself from your loneliness feelings. Are there any hobbies you’ve always been interested in doing or home improvement projects on your to-do list? Make an effort to invest some time in yourself and your passions while keeping your mind occupied.
Consult a therapist
Studies suggest that loneliness and depression tend to reinforce each other, such that the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and vice versa.
It isn’t always enough to get out there and meet people. Even when you are around them, you can still feel lonely, which could indicate depression or social anxiety. A psychotherapist may be able to help you if you are experiencing feelings of loneliness in addition to other symptoms of depression.
You may be able to overcome loneliness with the help of some forms of therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It doesn’t matter what you do to address loneliness, knowing that you are not alone can help you feel more connected.