Humans are social creatures. We need each other. (Even introverts!) So how do we combat loneliness during social distancing? Before I get into that, let’s look at some statistics to see why this is such an important topic.
Statistics Around Loneliness
According to socialpronow:
- loneliness in the USA is increasing. 52% of people sometimes or always feel alone.
- Millennials and Gen Zs have the highest rates of loneliness at 65%.
- 44% of the elder report being lonely
- Men (63%) are more lonely than women (58%)
- Loneliness is more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking, drinking, or not exercising.
So in effect, we’re risking our health so that we can preserve our health right now. Fortunately, it’s temporary. Here are some strategies to help you through.
Many people think that loneliness is about being alone. This can make us avoid being alone. However, we all need alone time. This is time to reflect, plan, relax, restore ourselves, or do self care. When we’re busy interacting with others, we can forget about ourselves. So instead of seeing solitary time as a bad time, take advantage of it to nurture yourself.
Think of it as “me time.” In fact, maybe you want to make your alone time a “to do” item. This tells your unconscious that this is important and desirable. When you’re the best you that you can be, you are more of an asset to yourself and others.
Change Your Thoughts
Loneliness isn’t about being alone. It’s about the subjective sense of connection to people and the universe. You don’t need other people to create this. It’s already within you. All you have to do is change your thoughts.
We all have family and ancestors. We belong to the animal kingdom and universe. The plant kingdom also inhabits the universe. The Earth houses us all. If we cultivate a connection to our village, city, state, or nation, we can connect to that too. We share culture with others too. Some of belong to groups, clubs, schools, or teams. There are so many things we can connect to that can nurture us if we change the way we look at them.
When you ask a gang member or a hate group why they chose to join, they almost always tell you its because of a sense of belonging that they felt there. We already belong to many different things. All we have to do is change the way we think about these relationships. Cultivate them. Nurture them. Let them be a source of strength.
Connect to Nature
Humans are part of Nature. Your natural family is all around you. Can you look up at the night sky and not feel the awe? You are made of stardust! What an awesome creature you are! The mighty trees are quite similar to humans. Even if you can’t be with people, you have these natural relatives all around you. Open your heart. Feel them. Feel your spiritual connection to them. Take comfort in your belonging to this vast, mysterious web of life.
Reach Out Virtually
Thanks to social distancing, many things that weren’t accessible virtually now are. Meetup is encouraging all their hosts to hold virtual meetups, so you can learn to dance, do yoga, or talk about your favorite book with people who like what you like. Anyone can join meetup. Just find a group that you like and you’re in!
Need support? AA and other social support organizations are now offering virtual meetings, too. Your family and friends are still there, too. You can always pick up the phone and call someone.
Social Distancing Isn’t Emotional Distancing
The key to staying connected is to be emotionally available. This means you open up. Show yourself. Share yourself. Be vulnerable, honest, and real while respecting boundaries and considering the comfort level of others. Feel your feelings. Loneliness isn’t about how many people you see in a day. It’s about how connected you feel in their presence. If you want to make that more likely, lead. Be open to nature, yourself, others, and see how your connection increases.
Social distancing doesn’t have to lead to loneliness. If you’ve been lonely already, perhaps this could be the doorway that breaks this cycle. Why not let it?