Feeling Lonely? 17 Little Things You Can Do to Connect With Others
Loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, not to mention the mental and emotional toll it takes. Here’s how to break out of your shell.
Find a furry friend
“Animals can really help with loneliness,” Medez says. “It’s about having something to take care of, that needs you, and that gives you unconditional love in return.” This is especially true for people who are ill or have other problems that it make it difficult to leave their home. Bonus: Furry friends often make great introductions to human friends.
Ditch negative thoughts
The mind is a powerful tool, Mendez says, and how you talk to yourself can make all the difference in how lonely you feel. “Don’t compare yourself to others, on TV or in real life,” she says. “Instead, try reframing negative thoughts.” For instance, the thought “Everyone here hates me!” becomes “Everyone here doesn’t know me.”
Log on to social media
They don’t call it “social” media for nothing! Going online offers an almost unlimited amount of ways to connect with other people, whether it’s collaborating on a cause you’re all passionate about or researching a niche hobby or venting about your kids. This is a great option for those who are home-bound or live in an area where friends of your age, race, sexual orientation, or religion are hard to find. Just be extra careful as social media can be as harmful as it is helpful, Medez cautions, and never give out personal information that could be used to steal your identity or hurt you.
Get a roommate
It’s just as true for middle-aged folks as it is for college kids: If you’re living on your own, finding a roommate (or three) can help fight loneliness—not to mention help pay the bills. Some people crave solitude as they get older but for many living alone is just lonely. And this idea of getting a mid-life roomie isn’t as strange as it may first sound. The Wall Street Journal reports that people over 40 are one of the fastest growing demographics in the shared living market.
Focus on yourself first
Happiness attracts happiness, Mendez says, so be the kind of friend you’d like to have. This doesn’t mean you have to create a fake self if you’re not feeling particularly happy or optimistic, but it does mean you should make an effort to put your best real self forward. “You have to learn to like yourself first,” Mendez advises. “People are comfortable with those who are comfortable with themselves.” Try these science-backed tips to boost confidence.
Learn relaxation techniques
A lot of people don’t reach out to others simply because they’re afraid, Mendez says. It makes sense. Who among us hasn’t gotten butterflies at the thought of trying something new, talking to a stranger or otherwise putting ourselves “out there”? But anxiety is just a feeling and one you can control, she explains. Deep breathing, meditation, mantras, exercise, and other proven relaxation techniques can help you learn to let that fear go, both in the moment and in the rest of your life. These tricks can help nip social anxiety in the bud.
Just do something
People get so caught up in worrying about being lonely that they inadvertently trap themselves in a vicious cycle of negativity, Mendez says. “Negative perpetuates negative,” she explains. “Don’t mope just get out there and do something—anything is always better than nothing.” It can feel overwhelming but something as simple as a walk around the block in the fresh air can invigorate you enough to try out some of these other suggestions.