Many Americans are dealing with loneliness and isolation, and this is not a recent trend. In 2018, a report by Cigna found that nearly half of surveyed adults in the US reported that they felt alone. With a global pandemic, the number has undoubtedly gone up; one study found that 65% of participants reported feeling lonely during COVID-19.
Feeling so lonely and isolated can have a negative impact on one’s mental health. Many studies have linked loneliness to depression, and loneliness has also been linked with social anxiety in adults, as both a cause and a symptom.
One way you can improve your mental health is by taking action to decrease loneliness. Though meeting new people can be difficult in a pandemic, there are many ways to stay connected, such as reaching out to friends you’ve lost contact with or friends-of-friends on Facebook.
Here are three tips to help you break out of your isolation:
Be a friend first.
Have you ever wished that people would reach out to you more? Do you want to be invited to Zoom calls or birthdays, not because you want to go but because you want to know that someone wants you around? It’s a common feeling. Everyone wants to be wanted.
At the same time, it’s a very human thing to fear rejection. Many times, people don’t reach out to others because they’ll think that they will get turned down, and being rejected is often painful. It’s likely that the people you want to talk to also want to talk to you, but they think that they’ll get rejected by you, so they see no point in bothering.
Yet, in 2013, a viral opinion piece about anxiety from the New York Times went viral with its final statement: “if we want the rewards of being loved, we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” If you want to stop feeling lonely, you have to let yourself face the possibility of rejection. Let yourself take the first step. You’d be surprised at how many people you’ve lost contact with want to connect with you if you simply take the initiative.
If the idea of making the first move fills you with stress, check out our tips to help you stop worrying.
Grab someone’s attention by getting creative.
These days, you can’t just go up to someone in public and ask for their name. But, there are still fun ways to break the ice and start a conversation.
If you have an iPhone, downloading GamePigeon will allow you to play games with your friends via iMessage Very few people will turn down an invitation to play a low-stakes Mini Golf or Mancala, and it’s a good way to open up room for a dialogue without saying anything. One of my friendships started with us just playing these simple games together over text messages; we would start talking to one another between rounds, which eventually led to us just talking whenever.
You can also adapt a tip from our list of random acts of kindness. Bake cookies and bring some to your neighbors to help start a conversation. Learn the names of your local barista or the person who bags your groceries–establishing these connections can be the start of a wonderful friendship.
Just be kind to others. It’ll come back around to you.
You don’t have to be the most interesting person in the world to have a solid social life. Chances are, most people you know can’t name the winner of America’s Got Talent or the last person to win a gold medal for snowboarding in the Olympics, but they can tell you about a time someone was nice to them. People remember and appreciate those who are kind to them in stressful situations, such as a global pandemic.
When all else fails, sometimes the best thing to do is to message an old friend and tell them that you hope they’re doing well. This simple yet kind gesture will be very much appreciated, as it shows someone that you care enough about them to reach out. Someone with this knowledge will be more likely to contact you in the future because they don’t have to fear you not liking and rejecting them.
One of my friends makes a habit of sending the people he knows “how are you doing?” text regularly just to check-in, and this basic gesture has made us so much closer. Sometimes, kindness is all you need.
Having strong connections with other people is key to establishing a good foundation for your mental health. We hope that our tips will help you break out of your loneliness. Remember: being lonely does not mean that you’re necessarily alone. Even in a pandemic, there are many people out there who would love to get to know you better. All you have to do is believe in yourself, get a little creative, and take what may feel like a risk.
If you are currently living with depression or anxiety and you need more support on your mental health journey, visit Prairie’s blog to learn more tips, or learn more about our wonderful Care Team to see how they can help you.