It is hard to believe that in such a socially connected world, loneliness plagues not only the elderly but also adults and youth increasingly. According to a psychologist at Swinburne University of Technology, Dr. Michelle Lim, “Loneliness is about not having quality, meaningful relationships.” Despite the thousands of friends and followers on various social networks, the reality is that not many of these followers classify as quality relationships. It’s not about quantity, but about quality.
We all experience loneliness in our lifetimes. This is not to be confused with welcomed periods of solitude. The harsh reality is that extended periods of loneliness bring negative emotions and feelings that can lead to risks in both our mental and physical health. Chronic loneliness is a medical condition that can lead to depression, disease, and obesity.
Loneliness is driven by external factors, mostly out of our control. Effective ways to reduce loneliness will be different for everyone. With that in mind, here are seven solutions to consider.
1. Acknowledge That You’re Lonely
Loneliness is subjective, and it’s rare that one would go to a doctor to complain about being lonely. Some may find it shameful to admit they’re lonely, but it’s liberating once you do. The first step is to admit it to yourself and try to understand the feelings you have. Keep a journal of your negative self-talk as well as the things that improve your mood. Commit to finding solutions.
2. Build Meaningful Relationships
During COVID-19 lockdowns, we were forced to give up our interactions with others at work, at school, and other social settings. Studies already show increased loneliness and depression during those long months of isolation. Meaningful relationships were difficult, but now we can plan events with others who have similar interests. You may have to initiate the invitation. Make it compelling so they will not want to be left out. This may not be as easy as it sounds but with effort invested you will create new relationships or re-ignite old ones.
3. Get A Pet
Our furry friends show us unconditional love. According to BMC Public Health, “New dog owners say they feel less lonely within three months of getting a dog.” Walking a dog is a great way to have a companion and to meet other dog lovers and initiate conversations. Conversations with strangers become effortless when it’s about our non-human family members.
4. Take Care of Yourself
It is important to take care of ourselves, and a healthy lifestyle should not be compromised. Nutrition is key, so eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of exercise; your heart, lungs and other organs will benefit. Do not deprive yourself of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the ultimate elixir for repair and regeneration. By respecting your body, it knows how to reward you. You will have the energy and the desire to do what it takes to live your most fulfilling life on a physical and emotional level.
5. Join A Community
Finding others with similar passions is an excellent way to initiate meaningful relationships. It may be joining a club, taking lessons or dance classes, or joining an online gaming or scrabble challenge. The most difficult step will be the hardest, but once the connection is made, feelings of shyness will quickly dissipate. Be sure to get noticed by talking about yourself.
According to Buddhist teachings, the number one human desire is to be happy and free from suffering. We can begin the journey to happiness through meditation and yoga. They have proved to be successful exercises in helping people deal with stress and anxiety, precursors to loneliness. Breathing techniques help to calm the body and quiet the mind. During these sessions, try not to blame yourself for failures. Sitting in silence can help us to focus on becoming more compassionate to others and to ourselves.
7. Talk to A Professional
Loneliness is a state of mind, and if your efforts to stave it off continue to result in feelings of sadness where you begin to wonder what is wrong with you, then you may want to seek the help of a counsellor. They are trained to help you identify the source of your loneliness and your difficulty with social interactions.
During the holiday season and especially on New Year’s Eve, loneliness can be devastating. This is a time, as Bell used to advertise, to reach out and touch someone who may be experiencing loneliness. Your phone call could just be the solution to someone else’s seclusion.
Janet Bennett-Cox | Contributing Writer