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How to Feel Less Lonely

I just read an article from Greater Good Science Center (a great resource) that reported that around the world almost a quarter of people 15 years old or older reported being very or fairly lonely. It also quoted a study that found “midlife Americans were much lonelier than their British and European counterparts.” Interesting. And it’s getting worse. Today we’ll unpack the reasons why, and explore what to do to make things better.


Are you ever lonely? For most people, it’s not something they admit, even to themselves. It’s as though there’s shame around it. I’m a perfect example. I can get lonely (which is different than enjoying solitude) Sometimes, I need solitude, but I don’t need loneliness. For me, loneliness is linked with self-doubt, or worry about things I can’t control, and I feel can’t share that with a lot of people. I’ve always been the “problem-solver” so it’s hard for me to be vulnerable in that way…though, I realize that showing vulnerability, and sharing it brings people closer. So, let’s say, I’m working on it!


1.Be aware of old patterns: Don’t be a prisoner of old thinking that you have to present yourself a certain way.  Remember, times change, locations change, people change, you change too.


2. Interrupt interia: For my sister, when she notices that loneliness and intertia are creeping in, she’ll recognize it, then take action, as in, “time to call the friends and make some plans.”


3. Get a dog and walk it – you’ll meet people, get exercise which mitigates depression, have a routine and a new community of fellow furry pet lovers.


4. Invite people you meet for a coffee and get to know them better. People are shy – you can make the first move.


5.  Consider lovingkindness meditation where you send good wishes out to people in your life, and actually change the energy so you feel more connected.


6.  Volunteer with a cause you believe in - you’ll meet like-minded people and feel more purposeful than if you stayed at home watching TV or playing on your phone.

Even ask yourself, who can I be kind to today, and look for an opportunity to pay it forward – that in itself can put a smile in your heart and make you feel more connected.


7. Gratitude – either in a journal or let others know you appreciate them, from the person at the grocery store checkout counter, to the barrista at your favorite coffee shop. Which brings us to psychologist Ester Perel’s suggestions for connecting with people even if you are not into small talk:


  • “The next time you’re in a restaurant, ask your server: “When you’re not working, what’s your favorite restaurant around here?”
  • Ask your uber driver, “What’s the most surprising place you’ve ever driven to?”
  • Ask the people dining at a table next to yours, “What did you order? It looks delicious.”
  • Ask someone on the street, “I love your outfit. Where did you get it?”


It doesn’t take much energy, or time, and it’s a reminder that simple conversation is a bridge back into our interconnected world.


WHY Midlife Americans are getting lonelier:

Many people know that the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s regularly speaks about a “loneliness epidemic” in the U.S., and Britain and Japan have created “Ministers of Loneliness” to prioritize this issue.


A) Compared to Europe and England, more Americans tend to move away from family and friends, and it can be hard to set up a new support system in a new location with people you have history with, and trust and love.


B) In Europe, especially Scandinavia, there are social safety nets, like paid maternity and paternity leave, socialized medicine, and in Sweden, for example , all employees are entitle to 25 days of paid holiday leave. There is a custom of getting together after work and on weekends to socialize, do sports, play games, and unwind. In the US, mid-lifers may be taking care of their kids and parents at the same time, and trying to juggle work, and life, leaving very little time and energy to prioritize social connection.


I want to leave you with 2 questions:

  • Are you very (V) or fairly(F)  lonely too? 
  • What do you do to move through it?   

Remember, we're all in this together...Share your thoughts in the comments :)









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