Tips For Dealing With Loneliness In Your Life

COVID-19 isn't the only outbreak facing the world today. Loneliness was declared an epidemic earlier this year, according to Mailman School of Public Health. Back in 2019, a poll by Cigna revealed that 79% of Gen Zers, 71% of Millennials, and 50% of Boomers report feeling lonely. In the years since, the isolation required to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has brought the matter to the forefront, creating the perfect storm.

It's important to understand that living or spending a lot of time alone doesn't automatically mean that you're lonely. Loneliness is a feeling. Not everyone who is alone feels lonely, and not everyone who feels lonely is alone. For example, as reported by CoOp, 82% of British moms under 30 feel lonely some of the time, and 42% feel lonely often or even always. Yet, mothers of young children are rarely, if ever, alone. If loneliness has become a concern in your life, here are some healthy ways to cope.

1. Assess time spent online

According to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, young adults who use social media platforms heavily are more likely to feel socially isolated than those who use them less. This may be due to the fact that these platforms focus more on the number of likes, "friends," and follows than the quality of social interactions. Instead, try to use more of your time online to connect with individual people on a deeper level through groups or support networks designed to bring folks together for a common cause.

2. Maximize connection

When in-person socializing is difficult or impossible due to health risks, transportation limitations, or just everyday scheduling conflicts, don't default to canceling completely. Connecting through a phone call or a video chat with audio can still create a stronger social bond than interacting through text, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. If you're uncomfortable with the thought of making an impromptu call, schedule a block of time with a friend or other loved one the same way you would if you were making plans to meet in person.

3. Help others

One of the best ways to boost feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine, and foster social connection at the same time is to volunteer your time to help people in need. There is even a name for this phenomenon, which was identified way back in the 1980s: helper's high (via Explore). Not only do you get to feel proud of yourself for your contributions, but you also gain the opportunity to meet and connect with other volunteers and the individuals receiving help. It's truly a win-win situation.

4. Adopt a pet

Taking on the responsibility of caring for an animal for the rest of his or her life is a serious time, energy, and financial commitment that shouldn't be made impulsively. However, if you feel like you have the appropriate long-term resources and capacity, adopting a pet can bring you years of faithful companionship. In fact, in a survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 80% of pet owners reported that their pets make them feel less lonely. So, if you're ready for a furry friend, take a look at available pets in your area on PetFinder.

5. Talk to a professional

Whether you're struggling with social isolation or mental health struggles that can cause feelings of loneliness tied to anxiety, depression, or rejection sensitivity, speaking to a mental health professional can help (via BMC Psychiatry). Through online services like BetterHelp and TalkSpace, you can receive mental health support and treatment even if you can't leave your home. Just the act of talking to another person can sometimes ease feelings of loneliness and make the idea of making human connections feel possible again.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.