In a world where everyone is heavily connected through social media, loneliness still thrives. It seems strange that with connections at our fingertips, loneliness can be so powerful. It is powerful enough to affect our physical and emotional health, and its effects are lasting. Is there a cure for loneliness?
Loneliness has two underlying causes. The first occurs when someone has limited contact with people. Their social interactions can be limited by health, schedules, or living situations. They lack physical connections with people.
The second occurs when someone feels emotionally disconnected from others. This can happen when they feel no one understands a hardship they are facing, or that their relationships never go beyond the superficial. In other words, quantity and quality of time are both important pieces to cheering up the lonely.
There are some ways to help chase it away and help create real connections with those around us.
1. Make meaningful connections. People can still feel lonely when they are surrounded by people. Superficial relationships are not enough. Learn the art of a sincere conversation. Picture someone who has lost a loved one. They probably feel lonely already. Then as they go about their life, well-meaning people may be afraid to connect. Someone from church might drop off a meal. A neighbor will give a passing hello. A friend at the grocery store may pick up with some small talk. The loneliness will remain as a void in their life until they are able to find meaningful connections with others. It goes beyond small talk and superficial gestures.
2. Put down the cell phone. It may seem counterintuitive to skip texting, phone calls, and social media connections. But developing a social network without the internet has become a lost art. Take the time to offer a visit whenever possible. Talk face-to-face and enjoy the company of others. And keep the cell phone away for your entire visit. This will help you to connect in the moment and not be pulled away by another.
3. People feel love in different ways. Physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of kindness are all important to everyone to varying degrees. A hand massage, a hand-written card, dinner, or mowing a lawn are each ways to help show someone you care about them. Don’t limit yourself to one method.
4. Find a common interest to develop. Everyone needs a hobby. There is something out there for everyone. Book clubs, adult coloring pages, painting, walking, sewing, cooking, music, and card games are just the beginning. You can become the exercise buddy or the taste tester of a new dessert. You will both benefit from developing your interests together.
5. Get outside of yourself. Benjamin Franklin said, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” One of the fastest ways to beat loneliness is to serve others. There are opportunities in every community. It is amazing how easy it is to forget your own troubles when there is someone else who needs your help.
6. Make the most of nature. Seasonal depression can augment feelings of loneliness. Exposure to natural sunlight and fresh air can do wonders.
7. Remember the good old times and make new memories. It can be painful to talk about losses. But the losses that bring the most pain are also some of the most cherished memories of our lives. Remembering those influential relationships is therapeutic and brings meaning to our lives. Don’t be afraid to talk about losses with others. As we reflect on those relationships, it can inspire new connections. Not to replace the old ones, but to remember that our lives are strengthened by the relationships we build.
This feeling of being understood and valued—this feeling of closeness—is what everyone really needs. The great news is you can create this feeling with anyone who also wants to feel it. Closeness doesn’t have to be something that happens randomly or by accident. It is within your control to create. Starting now, you really can cure loneliness.