It’s virtually impossible not to feel lonely from time to time, but if you’re feeling especially lonely at home or work, it can be hard to cope. Feelings of loneliness can be especially acute during the holidays, periods of stress at work, and whenever you just haven’t socialized in a while. Additionally, with the increase in work-from-home positions across the world, it’s easier than ever to feel isolated from co-workers and even people you live close to.
In fact, the number of adults in the United States who feel lonely is quite substantial—based on a January 2020 survey of 10,000 adults conducted by Cigna, 61% of those surveyed described themselves as feeling lonely. However, it’s common for people to avoid talking about feelings of loneliness and not to always know what to do with such feelings.
The good news is that if you’re experiencing lonely feelings, there are some concrete things you can do to feel more connected with others. Below are just a few tips for how to cope with feeling lonely.
Work a Day Per Week Outside Your Home
While an at-home office setup is great for reliability and ease of access, you can start to feel isolated from others you work with and the world around you. Whether you visit a coffee shop, a local library, or another public space that’s comfortable, getting yourself out of your normal environment and out in the world is a great first step to fighting lonely feelings. You can easily choose to use a co-working space, café, library, or even the campus at a university to work one day a week within so that you’re around other people and feel more stimulated. Even if you aren’t speaking to those around you, you might find that the simple act of getting out of your normal work space could help you feel like you’re a part of a larger community.
Show Gratitude to Someone
Sometimes the best way to connect with others is by expressing your thanks for the things you appreciate about them. Expressing gratitude can make you feel more connected to others by knowing that you helped someone’s day be a little more positive. You can respectfully tell someone one thing you appreciate about them in any way that seems comfortable, like on a personal phone call, thoughtful email, text, handwritten note, or when with someone in-person during conversation.
One of the less conventional but great ways to fight loneliness is to be open to interruption, more so than you might normally be. So try to be more interruptible, such as when someone at work or a close friend interrupts you during a task – embrace it and transition your energy and attention to them. The idea is to not let tasks and deadlines completely override your relationships. Try to foster a wider margin of self-permission to say no to the urgent and lean into what’s important about connecting with someone. You can always get back to your schedule!
Join or Create Groups for Your Work or Organization
Finding friends at work or even in larger club settings with mutual passions can feel awkward and challenging. But whether people at your place of work or group setting use social media messaging together or collaborate on a forum or wiki online, you can use that shared system to socialize with other members of the team. You can use programs like Slack and Zoom to more easily video conference and express yourself in fun textual ways in group settings. Shared tools, environments, and passions help you keep in touch with your teammates in a low-risk and low-effort way so that when you’re feeling less connected, you can more easily reach out for support.
Set a Phone-Free Time
We’re all always connected to our mobile devices these days, but it’s crucial to disconnect and find time to socialize without a screen in front of you too. Make sure to choose one time, place, or moment dedicated to activities that don’t require the use of your cell phone. Use this time to connect with your thoughts and/or surroundings and the other people around you. Don’t let your ability to be completely present in a moment diminish just because of our common reliance on technology!
As human beings, one of our most defining traits are our complex social skills and environments. We’re hardwired to watch each other’s backs, identify and isolate mutual threats, support one another, and establish alliances. In a real sense, loneliness isn’t compatible with our long-term health. And the great news is that everyone has the power to feel more connected to others with dedicated time, shared passions, and open minds.