Loneliness is not an abstract condition that affects only certain kinds of people. The truth is that feelings of loneliness can affect anyone—young, old, and in-between—and at any point in life.
It’s not uncommon for the elderly, people going through a breakup, divorce, or death of a loved one, and young people to struggle with loneliness. A recent loneliness survey by Cigna indicates that Generation Z adults (ages 18-22), in fact, are feeling lonelier than almost any other population.
Loneliness can be due to so many different factors and, long-term, can affect both your emotional and physical health. If you want to know what to do when you feel lonely, consider these 5 tips:
1. Acknowledge your feelings of loneliness
A first step to overcoming loneliness is realizing how you feel and the impact it’s having on your life. Try talking to a counselor or therapist. They can help you work through the factors that may be contributing to it, suggest additional steps to combat loneliness, alternative therapies, and help you build coping skills that work for you.
- See if your place of work has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many employers offer an EAP. These services come at no cost to you as a benefit of your employment and provide confidential access to counselors and therapists trained to deal with all kinds of issues, including helping you overcome loneliness.
- Talk to friends and family. Let them know you’re struggling with loneliness. If you’ve suffered the loss of a relationship, a loved one, lost a job, moved to a new place, are facing other issues that have isolated you, let them know how they might be able to help you feel less lonely.
2. Know when to engage or disengage from the online world when combating loneliness
The online world can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to loneliness and social isolation. Log on or log off—which is healthier? It all depends.
- The online world offers non-threatening and convenient ways to connect with others that can help if you’re trying to overcome loneliness. Things like multi-player gaming, chat and message sites, even online dating sites can offer ways to interact and engage with others that’s satisfying for some people. There are also online apps designed to help you deal with issues like loneliness and social isolation.
- What about social media? Is it good for you when you’re dealing with loneliness? For some people, the online world may contribute to even greater feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social media, for example, can portray people who seem to be living exciting, happy-go-lucky lives with hundreds of good friends at their side. Reality is that this is generally not reality. Social media can make some people feel inadequate, left out, and feeling lonely. Bottom line, if being online seems more isolating than connected, it may be a sign you need to log off.
3. Find a volunteer opportunity as a way to feel less lonely
Volunteer opportunities are plentiful. Contributing your time and energy, working alongside others for a good cause, can effectively help you in fighting loneliness. Volunteer activities are shown to ease stress, reduce feelings of depression, can help you make friends and connect with others, and overall make you a happier person. A sense of happiness, fulfillment, and connection to others is yet another way to stop feeling lonely.