We are currently living through a loneliness epidemic. And it was going on long before Covid required us to isolate and socially distance even further. That’s bad news because loneliness contributes to poor mental and physical health. That’s why it’s more important than ever to implement some creative tools in our lives to fend off loneliness and protect our mental and physical health. Get started with these tips:
1. Generate a sense of awe
Awe (like when we witness the birth of a new baby, or a majestic mountain) makes time seem like it’s standing still and helps us be more open to connecting. Something about feeling small in the context of a big world appears to help us see ourselves as part of a whole, which may help us feel less alone. So expose yourself to something that creates awe—like landscapes, new experiences, or new foods.
2. Practice self-kindness
In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-kindness. Blaming ourselves when we feel lonely is not helpful. So limit your hurtful self-talk, take care of yourself, and just generally give yourself a break. Perhaps a walk in nature or a day at the spa may be helpful for getting yourself into a self-kindness mood.
3. Stop focusing on you
It’s almost inevitable in our modern technology-crazed world that we start to believe we don’t have enough. Bob got a new car. Sherri got a new house. Sonja got a new job. We also see false or unrealistic images—models Photoshopped to have perfect waists and abs—and we feel envious. As a result, we become increasingly focused on how we are not measuring up.
Instead of focusing on what you can get, shift your focus to what you can give. You could sell T-shirts online to raise money for a good cause. You could ask friends to donate to a charity for your birthday. By giving to others, you take the focus off yourself and do good at the same time, helping you to feel more connected and less lonely.
4. Stop your negative thought cycles
We might repeatedly think about what we could have done differently to prevent ourselves from feeling so alone. We ruminate on the events or people or causes, because we mistakenly believe that thinking about our loneliness over and over again will help us solve it. Unfortunately, it does us no good to get caught up in our thoughts instead of taking the actions we need to feel better.
To put an end to these negative thought cycles, we need to take action—we need to do something different that stops these thoughts and changes our experience of the world. For example, you could go to the gym or read a book.
5. Pay attention to the things that matter
How do we expect to improve our loneliness when we don’t know what causes it? It’s hard. So it’s helpful to start paying attention to the present moment.
Ask yourself: what are the experiences that make you feel lonely? And what are the experiences that make you feel connected or like you belong? Identifying these moments can help you reduce loneliness, because you can increase your engagement in activities that make you feel connected.
6. Tend to your network
Sometimes we can end up feeling alone even though we are connected to lots of people. So it can be helpful to reach out to these people and schedule times to catch up. Aim to schedule at least one social hour per week (virtually or in real life). Who knows, maybe an old friendship can be reignited.
7. Join an online group of like-minded people
You can now find people online with just about any interest — for example, politics, cooking, or sports. Joining one of these mission-oriented groups can be a way to feel more connected to others, even when you don’t have access to in-person interactions. You might get to know some new people or make lifelong friends. You can even try out a few groups to see which ones fit you best and decrease your loneliness the most.
8. Be nice to yourself
It’s important to practice self-compassion when you fail at things. Remember, everyone fails, and there is no need to be a bully to yourself, feel guilty, or put yourself down. That kind of attitude won’t help you decrease loneliness, now or in the future. Instead, try talking to yourself in a way that is supportive, kind, and caring—and you’ll be more likely to acknowledge mistakes you may have made in trying to decrease loneliness, and hopefully do better next time.