By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Why is loneliness on the rise?
With all the electronic interconnectedness we have these days, you wouldn’t expect people to be increasingly lonely. But the reality of the situation is that social media friends don’t take the place of real in-person friends. An increase in electronic connections doesn’t equate to an increase in friendships and emotional connections.
Loneliness causes enough damage to your brain’s structure and function that experts have begun to believe it should be considered a disease. Being lonely affects both your physical and your mental health. What can you do to combat loneliness? Here are a few of the strategies that some people have adopted to tackle their feelings of loneliness.
New research published in Aging & Mental Health by Alejandra Morlett Paredes from the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues describes some possible coping strategies for loneliness. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2019.1699022?journalCode=camh20
Many of the coping mechanisms directly challenge the causes of loneliness. As people age, we experience losses. People you loved and who have loved you may have exited your life. Over the years, you may lose physical and mental abilities. There’s less time left to do anything and you may begin to wonder what your life has meant. While you may be surrounded by lots of people, the loss of quality relationships can make you lonely even in a crowd.
Acceptance of your limitations reduces isolation.
People who continue to insist they should be able to do the things they were able to do earlier in life are more likely to isolate. Accept that some activities may be more difficult for you to do. You may also have to make some accommodations for reduced abilities. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Embrace the use of newer technologies. If you need one, use a wheelchair to increase your mobility. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Don’t feel embarrassed by your limitations.
Practicing self-compassion reduces feelings of loneliness.
There’s no evidence that being critical of yourself will motivate you. Practicing effective self-compassion allows you to accept yourself as you are. Treat yourself as well as you would others. If you have been hard on others your whole life, learn to be more empathetic and compassionate towards them, and then use those new skills to increase your compassion toward yourself.
Engaging with your spirituality helps reduce feelings of loneliness.
Spirituality can increase your feeling of connectedness both to other people and to your meaning and purpose in life. Even when you can’t be physically present with other people who share your religion or spirituality, practicing the behaviors your faith tells you that you should be doing helps to maintain those connections. Pray, meditate, and practice good thoughts and deeds.
Stay socially connected and develop new friendships.
One aspect of loneliness is a lack of social connectedness. Friendships are built and strengthened by shared activities. The more things you do, the more friendships you can make. In the coronavirus age, many of these shared activities must be done when not physically present with each other.
When we first began socially distancing, I expected to feel more disconnected from my usual social circle. We’ve all learned to use videoconferencing and frequent emails to maintain those feelings of connectedness. Sharing about topics that are of mutual interest has helped to reinforce our connectedness.
Strengthen the relationships with the people you spend your time with.
A second aspect of loneliness is the feeling that the relationships you have aren’t meeting your needs. Sometimes that means you need to change your relationships. But that’s not the only option. Use your time around others to strengthen your relationships. Learn to communicate with those you care about in more positive ways. If your primary relationships aren’t meeting your emotional needs, consider either individual counseling to work through your own issues or relationship counseling to improve the communication between you and the others who are significant in your life.
Research the strategies others use to cope with loneliness.
There are several articles available on the Internet these days on how to cope with feelings of loneliness. Read some of these and try incorporating some of their suggestions into your life. One article I found particularly interesting was from the British Psychological Society, which reported on some of the strategies older adults use for combating loneliness.
If you have found any strategies that have helped you cope with loneliness, please leave a comment below.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
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