5 Ways To Deal With Loneliness (& Start Making Genuine Connections)

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how to deal with loneliness epidemic
Self

Here's how to overcome it.

Did you know loneliness is considered a public health threat in the United States and in England? In fact, England just announced a new government position — the Minister of Loneliness — to deal with its growing loneliness epidemic.

Of course, there are times when many people choose to be alone to seek restorative solitude or "me time." Yet, when you're not feeling alone by choice, it can be a difficult situation to bear.

If your loneliness results in feeling unimportant, disconnected, ignored or isolated, there may be serious effects on mental and physical health, comparable to the high mortality rates of obesity.

The good news is, many of the issues that cause symptoms of loneliness can be cured or improved, when you're willing to deal with them.

Here's how you can take action if you feel lonely or want to assist others suffering from loneliness:

1. Identify what triggers your feelings of loneliness.

It's important to first understand that feelings of loneliness can occur even when you're not alone.

You can be with someone you love, family, friends, colleagues, or in community and still feel lonely. When you notice feelings of loneliness tied to particular people or situations, that’s a signal that those aspects of your life could benefit from additional attention or investment. 

When loneliness is situational or passing in this way, pay attention to the issues that are beneath the surface, so you can uncover choices for improvement. Consider, adapt and use the suggestions below to expand your insight and options for addressing what you feel, whether transitory or somewhat deeper and sustained. For example, conversations and careful listening to yourself and others’ interests and concerns are some opportunities to move forward. 

However, if you're struggling with long-term feelings of loneliness and are having trouble overcoming them, this may also reflect a health or psychological matter to look into with appropriate professionals.  


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2. Don't let technology take over your life.

Unfortunately, many users of technology become conditioned to respond to every beep, buzz, throb, or ring from phones and computers in today's internet age that encourages expectations of instant access and connection. However, to avoid feelings of loneliness, make sure you're not letting impersonal aspects of technology control your life and choices.  

Picture these situations: Two millennials are walking together down the street — both texting on their cellphones. Two friends are in a car when the car-connected cellphone rings and the driver answers, followed by a long conversation about private matters — leaving the friend in the passenger seat ignored. An older couple dining in a restaurant is mostly silent throughout the meal, yet alert to their cellphones at the ready on the table for notice and response.   

I bet you can add your own images and experiences to these examples of “third party” cell phone presence in personal and professional situations. They are all potential opportunities for improving intimacy and deepening relationships.

3. Avoid connecting without closeness.

While it's impossible to avoid entirely the seduction of cell phones, social media and the like, take a step back and assess just how meaningful your many online "connections" really are. For insights and information, perhaps consider Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together, in which she discusses what to do about the negative influences of technology on relationship.

To address this issue, step back and ask yourself where and how you connect most with others.

Is it through text? Texts are are convenient and save time. In fact, many people prefer texts to calling because they can better control what’s discussed, bypassing the uncomfortable, boring, or unpredictable. And while there’s no doubt that practical texting is often built on in-depth relationships, relying on it as your primary means of phone communication can cause you to miss out on building the closeness that more open-ended phone conversations can develop. Does your email consider the needs of the recipient or does it tend to be like playing ping pong?   

If it’s through social media — which is often about telling rather than a conversation — consider how much of your time is devoted to it. Do you curate your posts to impress others and dole out impersonal "likes”, or do you encourage personal connection and go deeper to relate to friends’ interests? 

While yes, there's no denying you're being "social" by connecting with others through text or your social media accounts, it's important to examine the value of these connections. If you're constantly connected but still feeling lonely, consider how to carve out time in your day to invest in face-to-face or phone conversations instead. 

After all, studies have found that over two-thirds communication is nonverbal, which is why taking your interactions off-line can help you connect better with others


RELATED: Strong Women Would Rather Be Alone Than Waste Time With Undeserving Men


4. Go beyond small talk.

Maybe you’ve noticed the prevalence of automatic or generic comments and questions, such as “How are you?” or “Hope your day goes well!” These conversation starters rarely go beyond a hyperbolic response related to one’s perfection or result in a meaningless exchange of “I’m fine. How are you?”

Often, the questioner will just keep on walking or talking without waiting for response. Assuming you have a little more time to share than simply giving a brief “Hello,” “Glad to see you,” or a sincere smile, here are some ideas for launching a more meaningful conversation:

  • What do you think of (something you two have in common)?
  • Let’s catch up. I’m glad to see (or be with) you. I’d like to hear more about what happened with (a project, insight, experience they've previously referenced).
  • What was the best thing that happened for you this week?
  • Tell me about your current interests.
  • What are you doing to relax (or have fun) these days?

Possibly explore these books for leads to creating deeper, more meaningful connections with others: 


RELATED: 5 Completely Realistic Ways To Stop Feeling SO Incredibly Lonely


As you use your senses and skills, develop information and learn about others' lives, you’ll likely find links for sharing experiences, ideas, and understanding ─ not to  mention mutual problem-solving, fun and collaboration. Those processes can help you overcome your feelings of loneliness.

Plus, as you appreciate and enjoy the variety and gifts of individual differences around you, you’ll also clarify your own and others’ expectations, which can sometimes get in the way of mutual understanding and appreciation. By building these bridges, you'll move from feelings of loneliness and lack of fulfillment to experiencing the joy of authentic relationships.

As a result, these real connections will increase not only your self-awareness and ability to relate to others, but also your confidence, creativity and overall happiness.

This process will also benefit your creative capacities and contribute to realizing your potential and strengths. In fact, you’ll be better prepared for the future of work, as you define it, where problem solving, collaboration, empathy and listening will be valued.

To me, all this seems like a great, joyful bargain for transcending loneliness.

Ruth Schimel PhD. is a career and life management consultant and author of the six-book Choose Courage series on Amazon. She contributes to clients’ personal and professional success in practical, inspiring ways, as she consults in person with individual and organizational clients in the Washington, D.C. area. Connect and also work with her by phone and email throughout the US and abroad at ruth@ruthschimel.com, www.ruthschimel.com, or 202.659.1772.

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