Researchers have consistently found that we need connections to survive, to be happy, and to feel more at peace. But, this can be tricky for many of us. The last stat I saw was that about half of us report feeling lonely. And, this stat increases the younger one is.
To many of us, loneliness can truly feel like a friend. A friend we'd prefer not to have, but a friend who keeps following us around throughout the years.
Some of the factors that contribute to isolation and loneliness include: traveling and living in various parts of the country, being busy with work or school, feeling burned out, experiencing past traumas and having a difficult time trusting others, experiencing social anxiety, fearing judgments, anticipating that nothing good can come from an interaction, thinking that humans will just hurt us.
Friendships, whether superficial or incredibly deep, can be difficult to navigate. Another reason why some of us stay away from others is that we know relationships are difficult and We. Absolutely. Do. Not. Want. To. Put. In. The. Work.
If you're feeling lonely, though, let's work at it! Let's do the work together! Research has also found that when committing to a goal, it's better/more effective to have a buddy to do the work with you and hold you accountable. So, as you look at your contacts, I hope you're able to find someone who is willing to join you as you both explore ways to feel less lonely.
How do we start?
One -- If you have experienced trauma, in which loved ones and others have betrayed you, hurt you, disappointed you, caused you a lot of suffering, and contributed to experiences of depression, anxiety, and narratives like "everyone will hurt me; I'll be alone forever; I'm broken," I recommend going to therapy. This option is great for more affordable treatment.
Two -- If you'd prefer to do some self-work, there are so many great books out there for that! Another one, if you're wanting to feel energized, motivated, empowered, confident, and FIRED UP! And, another one, if you're wanting to work through your anxiety! Ram Dass is also great, particularly if you enjoy mindfulness, meditation, and learning ways to embody more love and kindness!
Three -- Build connections in simple ways. Simple could look like -- smiling at someone as you walk by them, saying hello to the person sitting next to you at the bar, on the bus, or on the train, texting someone in your phone that you've been meaning to reconnect with and maybe asking them if you both can talk on the phone sometimes, setting up a lunch date with a peer, colleague, or family member, or sending letters to old friends.
Researchers have found that we don't necessarily need deep connections to combat loneliness. Having a laugh with the delivery person can be enough. Slow down, breathe, relax, and attempt to have a pleasant conversation, filled with kindness, with everyone you come across-- a cashier, a houseless person, or a neighbor, for examples.
Four -- As you're engaging in therapy and/or doing self-work, and/or pushing yourself to connect with others more, make sure you're also connecting with yourself. This can be done by journaling, writing kind and supportive letters to yourself, engaging in activities that help you relax, or that help you feel present, nourished, and comforted; this could be walking in nature, meditating, going to church, singing, dancing, doing yoga, and engaging in deep breathing throughout the day.
My favorite practice: at the end of the day, as you're brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed, think of 3 things that went well. This can also be 3 things you're proud of. Or, 3 things that you're happy with and that made you smile.
Practice having gratitude for being able to have all of these amazing experiences. You're able to laugh, to feel the sun on your body, to watch the sun set, to joke with others, to do work that you're passionate about, to feel confident, to feel joy, to feel loved, to feel wanted, and to feel effective; thank yourself for doing your best everyday. Thank yourself for doing what you can.
Here's to you. I wish you so much love, connection, and happiness.