The definition of loneliness is:
“sadness because one has no friends or company.”
60% of Americans suffer from loneliness and that number is growing every day. Our very culture may be to blame and the pandemic has only made it worse. A report by Harvard Graduate School of Education had this to say: “Our new report suggests that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.” Not surprisingly, loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic.” They went on to say that there are “many types of loneliness, various causes of loneliness, and potentially steep costs of loneliness, including early mortality and a wide array of serious physical and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. While Americans clearly need to adopt distancing measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the report authors argue that we also must take steps to alleviate loneliness, particularly for the populations the survey suggests are most affected.
This is why I have put together this list of 5 ways to overcome loneliness.
- Practice Self Kindness. I know, it may sound kind of corny or cliché but it actually helps. Cut yourself a break and take a minute to ask yourself these questions about self compassion. Do I forgive myself when I fail to achieve something or your efforts seem futile? I am the worst at hitting myself over the head with my own failures. Look, the first thing you (and I) need to know is that failure is part of being human and that worry and embarrassment are normal and you should forgive yourself when you fall short. That way you can rise again to try again. Edison said this about failure: “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that did not work.” Sounds like a man who forgave himself, right?
- Rethink “Spare time” One synonym for spare time is freedom. Ask yourself “how can I increase the value of my spare time? Binging Netflix or spending an hour on Facebook are usually not adding value to your time. I have begun to set a certain amount of time aside for television watching per day and then try to find ways to spend my “spare” time better. Take the freedom that your time allows you and funnel it into ways to truly connect and help others. For instance, I started a Facebook group for my church. It is a way to reach out to people I already know and allow them to interact with each other. I share church events and a little bit of clean humor to try to help others stave off loneliness. I invite you to join and introduce yourself if for nothing else than to use it as a blueprint start your own group! My Facebook Group The main thing I am saying is that you can use your spare time as a tool and not a place keeper. If you are stuck at home get on YouTube and learn a new skill or hobby. You can call up an old friend or relative and reconnect, maybe they are lonely too! Focus on what you can give. Ask yourself can I deliver meals or groceries or help gather coats for the homeless? Can I start a phone tree to keep my family in touch? There are hundreds of way to give back and they all connect you with the community.
- Meet people in the real world. Put that mask on if you have to but don’t let it be a wall. Get out in the real world and interact with people. I don’t want to turn anyone off by mentioning church again but it is an awesome example. Not only does it give you a chance to interact in person but it also gives you a scheduled time and place to be. Positive routines that get you out of the house are a wonderful way to combat loneliness.
- Use your pets to beat loneliness. Just spending time with your pet will help you help you cure loneliness. Fetch anyone? Further more you can use Rover to get you out of the house and into the world. A trip to the dog park or just a car ride is a major treat for most pets and you get to reap the benefits as well. All animals can be “therapy animals” but please don’t take your Boa for an airplane ride.
- Volunteer. Just Google “volunteer near me” and you will get pages and pages of opportunities. Volunteer work is rewarding and fulfilling on a great many levels. It will get you involved, create friendships and turn the time you used to be lonely into productive and will give you meaning. I know one guy that started catching stray cats and working with the local animal shelter to get them spayed and neutered. He created his own volunteer work. He created a group to help these animals and worked with a local organization to make it happen. He decreased animal suffering by decreasing the population of suffering animals!
These are things that you can do today and should. I mean the best way out of loneliness is action! Heck you could even start a blog like I did. Do at least some of these things and I’ll bet that in a weeks time, your loneliness and depression has gone to that back burner and has been replaced with that ray of hope you were looking for!
Now If you will excuse me, It’s time for a rousing round of fetch!