We all are individuals who want strong, quality relationships with others. For some, it is easy to develop these relationships, but for others, it can be more difficult. From a young age, we are provided with ample opportunity to build friendships with peers through school, however, as we age this process becomes more difficult. Making friends requires putting ourselves out there. For those that struggle with building and maintaining relationships, it becomes so easy to develop social anxiety and depression.
Aside from altering our perspective, long-term loneliness can have more severe side effects. In fact, loneliness is a serious health risk. Studies of social isolation in the elderly population concluded that those without the right amount of social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. This may be because social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease. Mortality risk from loneliness was also found to be comparable to that from smoking, and twice as dangerous as obesity. Unfortunately, this problem is a growing national epidemic. Two recent surveys showed that the problem is only getting worse with 40% of adults saying that they were lonely, up from 20% in the 1980's.
Some might argue that social media networks give us access to a greater pool of potential relationships/friendships. In reality, the opposite is true. According to a study done on Facebook users, the amount of time you spend on social networks is inversely related to how happy you feel throughout the day. It is no wonder that in a society that judges you based on how expansive your social networks appear, loneliness is difficult to fess up to.
The good news is that loneliness is a very curable ailment! With a few simple steps, you can begin to rebuild a strong social network and pull yourself out of isolation. Here are a few tips that you can use to change your situation!
1. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional symptoms of lonliness
While you may feel lonely right now, do not let it beat you! Put a plan together and make an effort to reach out to a friend or family member. When you're isolated, it can be easy to fall into a depressed state that leads to more loneliness. Do not listen to that voice. As difficult as it is, force yourself to reach out. You will thank yourself later. If you don't have anyone to reach out to, you can try working with a therapist! They can coach you and provide you with the skills you need to manage your emotions and put yourself out there. If you'd like to try therapy, we can help!
2. Keep your commitments
When you're lonely, it can be easy to cancel plans if you're feeling in a funk. If you have an event or meet-up you committed to, don't back out last minute! This will only irritate the people you have plans with and could potentially hurt your chances of building long-term relationships. Half of the work of growing any type of friendship or relationship is simply showing up.
3. Find others who share the same interests as you
There are a ton of free resources available online for you to use to find new friends. Meetup.com is a great place to find events with like-minded people. If you are looking for a romantic relationship, match.com is a great place to start! There are also many local support groups that could be a great resource.
Remember, loneliness is a feeling, not a fact and it does not define you. With a some effort and some gumption, you can be on the path to conquering your loneliness and making your life the best that it can be!