Epidemic and pandemic – terms that have been used a lot within the last couple of years, especially in terms of viruses and health. The “loneliness epidemic” is a term that was also coined within the last couple of years. I’ve seen it used in studys about millenials or, of course, concerning the lockdowns.
How Loneliness Is Damaging Our Health, a New York Times article written by John Leland, does a great job of explaining how loneliness negatively effects us. Leland supports his article with studies and quotes from professionals who claim “loneliness can be damaging not just to mental health, but also to physical health.” The article states loneliness has been tied to anxiety, stress, and even substance abuse.
Being alone and loneliness are 2 different things. Being alone is a physical state of being by oneself while loneliness is a feeling and mentality of being without anyone you love, like, trust, or can connect with.
Ask any introvert! We love being alone but loneliness is different. I can go to a store, movie, restaurant, or even go to another country alone. I won’t feel too bad about that. But when I feel like I don’t have real friends or family to come home to or I don’t have people around me that I can really connect too…I’m not happy. That is loneliness.
These feelings can occur within everyone at anytime. We just stumble upon the feeling that we are truly alone sometimes (thus the loneliness epidemic). Whether that is true or not is not up for me to decide.
Here are my thoughts or tips for these times in your life.
Get out and meet real people
And yes, I mean real, physical, in-life people. Social media is one of our ways of coping with loneliness. Finding people and friends online is a way to meet others, of course, but it’s not the same as meeting people in real life.
When you can really look someone in the eyes and talk, it’s a whole new game. Digital plaforms don’t always have this genuine take on encounters. Talking to your followers in a 30 second TikTok video or replying to a comment is a lot different than conversating with a cashier at a store or someone from the armed forces at the airport. I’m not saying you have to be a professional small-talker, but be open to it, for sure.
Something I’ve heard of recently that I would love to try is a summer camp for adults. Literally just summer camp but for older people. I think one day I’ll get to it but there are a lot of other things to do too like church activities, volunteering, bars/clubs (if you’re into that), school activities, etc.
Do something different to change up your day
This just means, get out of your comfort zone. I am a creature of habit. I like to run on a schedule and do similar things everyday to stay comfortable. Sometimes, we have to get out of our comfort zone though. Especially, if we want to meet new people.
For me, I have to make a mental note and change in my day if I want to get out of my comfort zone. Whether that is going into work in-person or actually going to that activity/party I was invited to. Maybe just leaving the house once is good enough, if you usually don’t leave home all day. This will help us get into the right mindset to make changes, if needed. I know this can be hard, especially if you have anxiety, but I know a lot of good things can come out of it too.
Find a club, community, or fandom to join
Whether it’s a fashion community, gym class, chess club, or a Star Wars fandom, join something! Joining something where you share similar values, talents, and likes with others is really great! You will feel validated and helpful.
My next point may be in opposition to this one, but I think it should be a balance of both.
Rethink your “people preferences”
Yes! Join clubs and fandoms! Find people you share similar values with. But also, think about those who are different than you.
Sometimes we aren’t really getting to know others and gaining deeper undestandings of different people because of the preferences we have, whether that is age, religion, race, intelligence, looks, personality, or political party. Being around similar people is usually our default, but sometimes we have to drop them in order to learn more about others and connect beyond surface things. (Cause deep down we’re all just human right?)
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should accept rude, creepy, or toxic people into your life. Just that you should be more open to those who may be of a different religion, aren’t voting for the same person as you, grew up in a different neighborhood, or just simply look different.
That’s it my friends!
I think loneliness is the cause of many of our troubles, but little by little we can overcome both an individual and societal sense of agony. Thank you for reading about my thoughts on overcoming the loneliness epidemic!
John Leland, How Loneliness Is Damaging Our Health, New York Times, April 20, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/20/nyregion/loneliness-epidemic.html
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