Did you know that loneliness has the potential to kill? Research suggests that loneliness is on par with substance abuse and obesity in terms of its negative impact on your physical health.
And not only does loneliness have the power to send us to an early grave, it has the potential to do incredible damage to our mental health in the meantime. A recent study reveals that lonely adults are almost two times more likely to be depressed, 1.2 times more likely to be anxious, and almost 1.5 times more likely to have thoughts of suicide.
There are things you can do to prevent your loneliness from turning into a depressive episode, and it involves connecting with others. One study suggests that a person’s risk of relapsing into depression is reduced by 63% just by joining 3 groups.
Of course, joining a group isn’t the only way to connect with others. Below are some other tactics you can use to combat loneliness. Please give them all a try. Feel free to add to the list, creating your own personal anti-loneliness action plan.
- Say hello to people you pass on the street
- Smile at others rather than looking away
- Learn the art of accepting an invitation
- Avoid the impulse to retreat and isolate
- Make plans with someone – share a meal, see a show, take a walk
- Take your dog to the dog park
- Join a book club, a bridge club, a tennis club, a running club (options are endless)
- Take a photography class, a foreign language class, a yoga class, a cooking class, a dance class (again, options are endless)
If the idea of doing these things makes you a bit anxious, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, please don’t despair. Making these types of changes takes patience, persistence, and determination. Most likely you will experience successes and failures along the way. Do your best not to be too hard on yourself as you begin making these changes. It’s doable, but change is never easy.
It may be difficult to step outside your comfort zone and connect with others. If you encounter barriers along the way, you may feel disappointed. You may want to give up and retreat to the solitude of your home. Please don’t give up!
Make a plan to connect with a couple of people a day. You can call them, meet in person, or simply connect by saying hello while on an elevator or at a checkout counter. Don’t let a single opportunity to connect with others pass you by. And, keep in mind: many people share your same struggle, so some of the people you say “hello” to as you go about your day may need that warm, momentary connection as much as you do.
The most important thing is to never give up – never stop trying. The stakes are too high. You must protect your physical and mental health at all costs. Connecting with others is a great way to achieve the goal of physical and mental well-being.
Smile and say hello to the next person you see. Keep making the effort to connect and, over time, you’ll reap the benefits.