Ask anyone about their most significant needs, and I guarantee most will identify with basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Besides good nutrition, adequate clothing, and a good home, SOCIAL CONNECTION is more important than you might think. Most of us lead hectic lives and have a hard time balancing work, school, and home, which unfortunately affects our social lives. And our social lives are so important to our mental wellbeing! Social connection can lower depression and anxiety and can help us understand our emotions better. So, let me ask you this, when is the last time you made a new friend?
Everyone experiences feelings of loneliness from time to time. A friend shared with me that while she was in high school, she was constantly surrounded by friends and family, and it felt really good! When she moved five hours away for university, she felt extremely lonely because the social interaction with friends and family was no longer there. She was homesick and became quite lonely, which eventually advanced into clinical depression. Through a candid conversation, my friend shared the healthy habits she implemented over time to balance her life and wanted me to share them with you. In her own words, here are her top 5 suggestions for overcoming loneliness for a happier and healthier life:
#1 Stay Active
"Going to a yoga class was the scariest yet most rewarding experience. I was so nervous that I lied on my mat for the entire class with my eyes open, looking around, while everyone else's eyes were closed and relaxed. As scary as the first experience was, I continued to return and became more comfortable when I started talking with fellow classmates and forming relationships. After a while, I began exchanging numbers and having coffee with my new friends outside of class."
#2 Do Something Meaningful
"Feeling lonely can sometimes mean that you have lost a sense of meaning. If you are bored and feeling isolated, consider volunteering. You can socialize with people that share similar interests while contributing to your community at the same time."
#3 Connect Online
"Finding a community on your own with like-minded people can be challenging. It's much easier to discover people online that you can connect with who have similar interests. Consider finding a Facebook or Instagram group that aligns with your passion or a topic that sparks your curiosity."
#4 Practice Self Care
"I am a huge advocate for self-care because it positively contributes to your overall wellbeing. When you feel lonely, consider taking a warm bath or a hot shower, spend time with an animal, cook your favorite meal, spend time in nature, light a candle, practice good hygiene, have a warm beverage, etc. Just do something that makes you feel good!"
#5 Support System
"It can feel like a daunting task to care for your mental health, so start with one of the suggestions mentioned above and build from there. If needed, I highly recommend talking to a therapist and other trained mental health practitioners. And keep in mind that my suggestions are meant to support any recommendations made by your trusted professionals."
I hope this was helpful and that these tips will guide you through those challenging times of loneliness. Remember, feeling lonely from time to time is normal - everyone experiences this! Also, loneliness is not always the same as being alone. Some of us enjoy our solitude. If you have a friend who struggles with loneliness, let this article serve you with ideas to support and help those around you. Also, PathForward's community of caring Advisors is here to help you overcome challenges. So next time you're feeling lonely, get a reading and learn even more ways to boost your good feelings.