Combating Loneliness and Depression
We’ve all experienced loneliness from time to time; it’s a complex and universal emotion. But as the number of Americans who report feeling lonely rise, there is ever growing concern that they are also at an increased risk of developing a wide range of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
Though populations such as seniors and adolescents are more vulnerable, feeling isolated and alone can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social background. Fortunately, there are successful methods to eradicate these feelings that are accessible to most everyone. Here are a few tips on how to combat loneliness and depression.
5 Ways to Fight Isolation and Depression
Talk with loved ones. One of the most important things to remember when you’re feeling lonely is that it is a natural feeling and in no way reflects fact. Sometimes it’s easy to withdraw from the world, retreat within yourself, and label yourself ‘outcast’, but it simply isn’t true. One of the most natural ways to combat loneliness is to overcome that mental hurdle and reach out to others when you’re feeling blue. Whether you have friends or loved ones right next door or across the world, a great way to feel closer to others is to pick up the phone. If you’re not feeling up to a telephone conversation, texting, video chat, email, or even “snail mail” are all excellent methods of communication. Chances are high that your friends and loved ones can’t wait to hear from you and will be delighted that you’ve reached out to them.
Look to your local community. Join a club, local hobby group, or sign up for a class about something you really enjoy. Loneliness often stems from feeling unimportant or from lacking a sense of belonging. But most communities have a lot of hidden gems like pickup-sports leagues or events at local community centers or junior colleges, and they may be available at a discount or even free. Whether you enjoy history, music, arts and crafts, religious studies, exercise, or literature, groups where you can meet people with similar interests are plentiful. It’s much easier to get out of the house and make new friends when you’re with like-minded people.
Volunteer. Similarly, another excellent way to feel connected with others is to volunteer at a local charitable or nonprofit organization. Not only is it rewarding to help others in need, you will meet many other folks who are as passionate about a cause as you are. It’s a proven fact that generous actions lead to feeling happier and more satisfied with one’s life, so why not look into being a volunteer for a few hours a week? It may just be the remedy you’re looking for.
Companionship is extremely important to humans, but we aren’t the only animals that need interaction or affection. If you’re able to do so, adopting a pet is a great way to feel less lonely. There are many shelters full of dogs and cats that need forever homes, and playing and interacting with a pet is a great way to chase the blues away. Even smaller and lower maintenance pets like fish or hamsters can help tackle the symptoms of loneliness. If you aren’t able to own an animal, volunteering at an animal shelter is another way to experience pet therapy.
Introspection. Finally, another option to combat feelings of isolation is to get in touch with your feelings. Ask yourself why you feel isolated, and explore what you think might be holding you back from connecting with others. Self-help workbooks, group sessions, church prayer groups and meditation are just a few ways of exploring the underlying emotions which may be at the root of your loneliness.
In the end, if you find that none of these options work for you, or you feel that you’re unable or unwilling to find solutions on your own, your loneliness may be a symptom of something more serious, such as depression or anxiety. At this stage, it is best to seek out a professional therapist or counselor to discuss what you’re experiencing.