There’s no question that Americans feel lonelier than ever before. In fact, research suggests that since the pandemic began in 2020, more than 60% of all Americans report feelings of loneliness. While some of that loneliness can be explained away by masking and social distancing, there remains a persistent feeling of isolation for many adults. Loneliness can bring on all kinds of physical and mental health issues as well, such as depression, physical pain, and lowered immune system health.
If you are feeling isolated and lonely, there are some things you can do to minimize those feelings of loneliness and cope with isolation. Here are some excellent ways to cope with feeling lonely.
1. Join in a group activity, either online or in person.
The pandemic made a lot of people feel isolated and alone. To combat loneliness, why not take a class, participate in an activity, or join a group? There are groups and events for everyone, both in person as well as online. For example, if you love to make wreaths for doors, there are all kinds of wreath-making groups at craft stores as well as in online communities.
When you join in a group activity doing something you love, you feel as if you are part of something bigger, a member of a community. You have something to look forward to, and you meet people with similar interests and tastes.
2. Become a volunteer and change lives.
There is something about volunteering that lifts spirits–not just for the cause but for the volunteer as well. The Census Bureau estimates that 60 million Americans volunteer over four billion hours yearly in volunteer projects. When you volunteer, you help people in your community to live better lives, but you also boost your levels of endorphins, such as serotonin. This leads to feelings of happiness or contentment. Also, volunteering means you meet up with other people who have the same social causes you do, which is an entry point for friendships to form.
3. Look for online support to help with loneliness
While more online communities have sprung up since the pandemic began, they have always been a part of the internet. There are support groups for all kinds of problems, including friend groups, groups for depression, and even groups for loneliness. Many adults who are no longer in school find it difficult to find and make new friends, so you won’t be alone no matter which group you join. Online support groups are great for forming ties with individuals who are having the same issues you have, and leaning on other people helps you feel less lonely.
4. Reassess your thinking patterns.
One of the reasons you feel lonely may be due to stress or anxiety. There are some great techniques to reduce those feelings of loneliness and to quiet your mind. Consider taking up meditative practices such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation. All of these techniques help you to focus your mind, relax you, and give you a more positive outlook, which can elevate your mood and reduce feelings of loneliness.
5. Be kind to yourself.
There’s a reason people use the expression, “You are your own worst critic.” People criticize themselves all of the time, which can lead to feelings of anger or sadness. If you regularly criticize yourself, it’s time to stop. Why not practice self-compassion instead? There are many ways to practice self-compassion. For example, you may want to engage in some positive self-talk or meditation, such as, “I am a wonderful person” or “I have a lot to offer my friends”. Also, you may want to try taking care of yourself as well. Buy a soothing candle, listen to music that relaxes you, or even try dancing around your house if that’s what you feel like doing. Treat yourself the same way you treat your friends, and help alleviate those feelings of loneliness.
6. Reach out to people who love you–even if it has been a while.
As adults get older, they may feel increasingly isolated without opportunities to make good friends. However, if you were once able to make good friends, you still have that ability. You may want to start by reaching out to old friends you haven’t heard from in a while, such as friends from high school or college. Chances are, many of your old friends miss you and would love to reconnect.
7. Time to start a new hobby.
Is there a hobby you have always wanted to try but just haven’t done it yet? Now is the perfect time to try something new. Not only will trying something new, such as a game, hobby, craft, or side gig, help you break out of the rut you have been in, but it can connect you to a whole new group of people that like the same things you do.
8. What about a good book?
Book clubs have always been a part of society since the days of the French salons and British club memberships. There are millions of book clubs available both online and in person for every genre of literature. Why not look for a group of like-minded book folks to join in a spirited discussion with?
9. Start a walking club, or walk with a friend.
If it has been a while since you have been physically active, you may want to start slowly. Invite a friend or acquaintance on a walk. Walking and talking elevate those levels of endorphins in your brain that promote happiness and allow you to talk one-on-one with someone. You will be surprised how much a simple walk helps you feel better both mentally and physically.
10. Strike up a conversation.
Research studies show that when you get into a mindset of talking to someone new each day without feelings of judgment and without expectations, you elevate your mood. For many people, talking to someone new is scary, but if you can go into an introductory conversation with someone, you may find you have a lot in common with a stranger you just met. Decades-long friendships have evolved just from talking to a stranger at the store or on a train.