by Stephanie Chambers
In a 2018 survey by Cigna (1) almost half of the 20,000 adult Americans reported that they sometimes (or always) feel lonely. And it isn’t just in the US that loneliness is becoming epidemic. There have been similar findings in the United Kingdom and in Japan. These are truly sad findings especially when another study (2) has shown that loneliness shortens a person’s lifespan by significant amount.
Talking to your therapist can help you combat loneliness
A study in Chicago (3) showed that talking to a trained therapist can help to uncover the real reasons for a person’s loneliness. Everyone hasn’t ended up lonely for the same reasons. So step one is working out why you are lonely.
Your psychiatrist or therapist can help you work through any negative thoughts you may have about your self-worth and how other people perceive you. It’s easy when you are alone to slip into the habit of being cynical and not trusting other people and this type of attitude can self-perpetuate your loneliness.
Joining a club or group can also help
Other studies (4) have found that joining a choir or a social group such as a book club or church group helps some people to reduce their loneliness. In Denmark (where people often report they are happy even in the depths of winter), it is very common for people to join community clubs like tennis clubs and so on.
In the United Kingdom there has been some success in helping people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses through social prescribing where a doctor may advise you to join a gardening group or other social activity.
The modern day trend to create co-housing communities (which also has been popular in Denmark for some time) where you get to know your neighbor and do things with them is also help people to combat social isolation.
There is a tendency in the United States for people to be restless and to often move for work reasons. But to combat loneliness, if possible it is better to stay in one place, put down roots and to develop strong connections with other people by doing things with them and for them.
The main thing is to not just accept your loneliness. Do something about it. Talking about it with your therapist is a good first step.
4. https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/advance-article/doi/10.1093/geronb/gby132/5165411 and https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/2/e010164