7 Healthy Ways to Cope With Loneliness
People are social creatures. No matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we’re all likely to become lonely when we are deprived of meaningful human contact for some time. While some people can cope with being alone better than others, being lonely is a state that the vast majority of people would rather not be in, if they had a choice.
Below are a few healthy things you can try if you’re currently feeling lonely. If you’ve been using substances to cope with loneliness, please check out these resources on SMART Recovery in Boston.
1.) Limit Your Social Media Use
Social media use is associated with an increase in loneliness. This may seem rather counterintuitive, as social media is supposedly something that connects us. While this is mostly true, what we see on social media tends to present a very distorted version of reality.
Not only are people more likely to just put the “best versions” of themselves on social media, but most platforms are also highly tuned towards the delivery of advertising and sponsored posts. Ads, by definition, are intended to make us feel inadequate so that we will buy something. Furthermore, multiple studies have already come out tagging heavy social media use as symptomatic of mental health issues, and a probable cause of them, as well.
Even if you can’t deactivate your social media accounts for work or personal reasons, you can take steps to limit the amount of social media browsing you do. Try keeping all your social media use to a specific one-hour-or-less window per day. You can also try using one of the many apps designed to limit your social media use.
2.) Join a Club or Class
This is, perhaps, one of the most straightforward ways you can expand your social network. Clubs and classes not only put people with shared interests together but also create near-infinite opportunities for productive, quality, face-to-face interaction. What’s more, your personal situation is secondary to the group’s shared interest, making clubs and classes great for people who feel conscious about their home life or other personal matters.
3.) Look for Local Volunteering Opportunities
As with classes and clubs, volunteer groups offer many opportunities for interaction. However, these groups will also put you in controlled contact with the people you intend to serve. This not only enables you to better exercise your social skills in a wider variety of contexts, but it could also give you a sense of purpose that encourages you to keep at it.
4.) Consider Cognitive-behavioral Therapy
Some people are shy or have chronic loneliness stemming from social anxiety and other similar conditions like avoidant personality disorder. These conditions make it difficult for them to join clubs, volunteer, or do other things that require direct contact with people. People with these issues can consider seeking cognitive-behavioral therapy to allow them to socialize better and reduce loneliness.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy approach where a therapist helps a patient or client reframe their negative thoughts. When done consistently, CBT can be highly effective for a wide range of mental health conditions associated with loneliness.
5.) Consider Adopting a Pet
It’s important to understand that adopting a pet is a decision that should not be taken lightly. That said, adopting a pet can help stave off loneliness as well as give structure and meaning to one’s life. Pet ownership is also associated with reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, more happiness, and longer lifespans. Pets can also create opportunities for socializing with people who keep the same types of animals as well.
6.) Pick Up a Hobby
Hobbies not only allow you to connect with other like-minded people, but they also allow you to fill your time with something that you enjoy. Loneliness has been linked in some studies to boredom, and alleviating boredom can offset at least some of the effects of loneliness.
7.) Renew Existing Friendships
If you have difficulty meeting new people, you can try reconnecting with the friends you have. This is typically less intimidating than meeting new people and it can be a straightforward way of helping you sharpen your social skills as well.
If you haven’t been in touch with friends and family members whose company you enjoy, you might just be surprised at how much you have to talk about. If you have other friends that you’ve only interacted with at work or over social media, you could also try meeting them in person.
Note that if you’ve been feeling lonely for several weeks, it may be time to get in touch with a qualified mental health professional. Loneliness is something that happens to virtually everyone. However, extended bouts of loneliness can be symptomatic of a mental health issue like depression. Treating depression early is often key to a sustainable recovery as well as lower costs of treatment. Good luck, and be well!