Many people have struggled with feelings of loneliness at some point in their life, and those who have suffered the sensation know that just simply being around others doesn’t exempt you from feeling lonely. As is the case with other mental states, there are a number of habits that may help prevent feelings of loneliness, and engaging in these practices can help you suffer less and feel more connected to others.
Loneliness not only feels uncomfortable, but it can also have an impact on your health. “Being lonely increases cortisol, which is a stress hormone,” Dr. Stephanie Parmely, a psychologist at Dignity Health, tells Bustle. “It negatively impacts your immune system and your cardio pulmonary system. Loneliness also decreases a person’s productivity and happiness which can impact your work and social life.”
People are social by nature and need others to survive. “We need more interaction and engagement to fill ourselves up and not be lonely,” says Dr. Parmely. If you struggle with loneliness, you’ll want to find ways to engage in activities that help buffer against the sensation.
Engaging in deep, meaningful connections with people is key, but if you’re wondering how to form these bonds, try these six expert-backed habits that can help protect you against loneliness.
Research published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences found that volunteering at least two hours a week may go a long way toward helping to ease feelings of loneliness and social isolation. “A key way to combat loneliness is by reaching out to others,” psychiatrist Gene Beresin, MD, executive director at The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Bustle. “This may be through joining a community organization, helping others in your community, or volunteering. The process not only helps extract you from physical isolation, but the gratitude of giving and of connecting with others you receive is a relief.”
Researchers out of UCLA found that a simple meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults. “Loneliness is your subjective feeling and perception,” Dr. Beresin says. “Many individuals who are lonely experience their state of being as ‘The way life is,’ but it is not necessarily an unchangeable fact of life.”
Try to identify some common thoughts you have about your feeling of loneliness. “They may be ‘I am not worth anything’ or ‘There is no hope for me connecting with others. They all have somebody else,'” Dr. Beresin says. “Many of these thoughts will prove to be incorrect or exaggerated. Once you diminish the distorted or exaggerated thoughts, your emotions improve, and you will find it easier to change your behavior.”
3Taking Care Of A Pet
Pets can help with your emotional wellbeing, including loneliness. “This relationship releases oxytocin, as a consequence of attachment,” Dr. Beresin says. “Pets provide emotional support and connection. They also need us to take care of them. Caring for a pet is a joyful experience.”
Multiple studies have found that practicing gratitude can help act as a buffer against feelings of loneliness. Showing expressions of gratefulness and appreciation in daily life can help combat feelings of isolation, disconnectedness, and not belonging, according to a study in Europe’s Journal of Psychology. Additionally, gratitude is demonstrated to be associated with increases in happiness, life satisfaction, and social desirability.
5Moving Away From Texting
Your method of communication matters when it comes to connecting with others. “Maybe you feel anxious about calling someone on the phone or initiating plans to get together,” clinical psychologist Madeline William, Psy.D., tells Bustle. “However, if you feel that texting […] or using other less direct methods to communicate is diminishing the closeness of a relationship, you may end up feeling disconnected and lonely.” Opt for face-to-face communication, which is the ultimate remedy for loneliness.
6Indulge In Arts
“Although you may find yourself alone at times, the arts and humanities are often ways of providing relief,” Dr. Beresin says. “When we read a good book, watch a captivating movie, or lose ourselves in music or observing a work of graphic art, our mood can improve and we feel better. The arts are not simply distractions but have healing properties in themselves. And, as a bonus, you can feel connected to others who are also appreciating the gift of art.”
Connecting with others is what helps you feel less lonely, but engaging in these habits can help you attain feelings of belonging .