Much has been written lately about the importance of staying connected and the risks of losing touch with the world at large. If you haven’t adopted your own strategies to combat loneliness, or you don’t know the steps to reconnecting, now’s a good time to take these suggestions to heart.
Loneliness has physical impacts, and heart health is just one thing that can be adversely affected by loneliness. Our immune systems may also take a hit. In order to stay well, we need to feel well mentally. Making an effort to keep loneliness at bay can improve overall health and well-being.
This is no time to sit alone with your thoughts. Connections are key to combating loneliness. Pick up the phone, reach out via social media or email, or pull up a chair in your driveway. Just a quick conversation with another person can get you out of your head. Talk about the weather or the latest silly TV show you enjoyed. You may think you have nothing to say, but having a conversation of any kind can be a real day brightener.
Organize a virtual coffee break or happy hour with friends. Enjoying company and conversation via group chat is a fun way to keep in touch and connected.
Rev Up Your Activity
Exercise class may be off limits, but that’s no reason to lose the muscle tone and stamina you worked so hard to gain. Pull out your yoga mat and do a downward dog in the den. Walk or jog in place, tackle the stairs two or three times, do squats and arm circles, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and close to breaking a sweat. A little physical activity every hour or so can pull you out of a slump and make you feel more alert and alive.
If you haven’t tried an online group class, now’s the time to jump in. There are cycling, yoga and other fitness classes available for free or by subscription. Many are taped sessions with an instructor and a small group, and you may also find live sessions with just an instructor who can help keep you moving and motivated.
Ditch Your Routine
At the beginning of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many people found that following a routine was the best way to cope. But those routines may be getting stale, and it’s time to try something new. If you always phone a particular friend on Wednesday, move the call to Monday and see if they have a different story to tell right after the weekend. If you always walk the same route in your neighborhood, take a different path for a change. You’ll likely encounter new people, different architecture, and things you’ve never noticed before right in your own backyard.
Make a Difference
Did you know you can volunteer online? Doing something meaningful for someone else can inject a sense of purpose and connectedness into your days. There are lots of ways to get involved online and use skills like translation, research, teaching, writing, editing and more. You may be able to volunteer virtually with a school, church or nonprofit organization close to home. Choose a cause or group that you’d like to help, and chances are they’ll find a way to use your time and talent right away.
Make a Plan
It’s difficult to predict what the “new normal” will look like for everyone, but don’t let that stop you from being hopeful and planning ahead. Having something to look forward to is a great distraction and a good way to focus on the future, which can keep you from dwelling on sad or lonely thoughts and feel hopeful about what’s to come. Talk with a friend or with your family about what you’d like to do or see when travel is a little less restricted.
Feelings of loneliness are to be expected right now, but staying connected with family, friends and neighbors is the most important thing you can do. Lift your spirits (and theirs) by reaching out as often as you can.