Much has been written about the importance of staying connected and the risks of losing touch with friends, family, and the world at large. If you haven’t adopted your own strategies to combat loneliness, or you don’t know the steps to reconnecting, here are some ways to start.
Loneliness can have a physical impact on the body, 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.
Connections are key to combating loneliness. Pick up the phone or reach out via social media. Just a quick conversation with another person can help you refocus your mindset. You may think you have nothing to say, but even the simplest interactions can help generate a positive response. Remember that socializing doesn’t have to be a big commitment — even a quick chat with a grocery store clerk or a next-door neighbor can be enough to brighten your day.
If distance or busy schedules are a factor, 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 when we don’t have the opportunity to see one another in person.
Rev Up Your Activity
Regular exercise is not only key to a healthy body but can also help support a healthy mind. Pull out your yoga mat and do a downward dog in the den. Walk or jog, tackle the stairs two or three times, search for an online fitness class, or do 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 are thinking about starting a new fitness routine, a check-in with your doctor is always recommended. He or she can provide additional information on what exercises are right for your body and what (if any) physical limitations you should be aware of.
If you haven’t tried a group fitness class, there is no time like the present. Cycling, yoga, and other fitness classes are available online or can be found in person at your local gym or fitness center. Including others in your workout routine is a great way to stretch your social muscles and can even help you stay motivated and feel inspired.
Ditch Your Routine
Routines are a great way to organize our time, but they can also grow stale and leave us feeling bored or underwhelmed. If your social routine feels a little flat, try switching things up with new activities or other small changes. 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
Doing something meaningful for someone else can fulfill a sense of purpose and connectedness. There are lots of ways to get involved in person or online where you can use your skills to improve the world around you. Consider volunteering 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
Setbacks and changes are normal parts of life and it’s important to remember that we can’t let them stop us 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 feeling hopeful about what’s to come. Talk with a friend or with your family about your hopes for the future and what they mean for your next steps.
Feelings of loneliness are normal emotions, 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.