3 Simple Ways to Connect When You Feel Lonely or Isolated
I’ve been busy — projects, classes, big family milestones and events. And I’ve been dealing with my mother’s health issues and my grief of losing my Dad. And with all that, I realized I was isolating myself, withdrawing from the people around me – just when I needed them the most.
It didn’t help that I was away from one group of friends, and another group I’d grown close to over two years had scattered. And I realized I wasn’t connecting with many of my friends and even extended family.
Fortunately I have a supportive spouse and I’m close to my kids and their partners. That’s wonderful, but I also want and need connections outside of that small group of folks. I want to be connected to my friends, both my inner circle of close friends, and also the people a step outside of that circle. We have many levels of friends who are important in our lives. And when we are busy or our situations change, sometimes we lose touch, even with our closest friends.
Connection Is Essential
Connection is essential. We need to feel a sense of belonging. We need to be in community and connect with others. Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Adult Development study, says, “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.”
Connecting with others helps
- Boost our mood
- Lower anxiety and depression
- Build self-esteem
- Strengthen empathy
- Energize us
Connection has so much going for it, and yet so many of us feel a bit (or more) lonely or isolated.
3 Ways to Connect
When we are lonely or sad, it’s easy to isolate … just like I was doing. That just makes loneliness worse. Here are three ways I tried connecting when I knew I needed and wanted to, but wasn’t sure I felt up to it.
- Reach Out and Notice What Happens. I made it a practice to reach out to friends regularly, but I didn’t do it randomly. I kept track of who I talked to, what we talked about, and how I felt after. I often felt energized and grateful after reaching out, and that gave me the energy to reach out again. Paying attention to how you connected and to your feelings after, help solidify how much the connection means to you. Set a goal for yourself to reach out each day or a few times a week. Sometimes reaching out once can have ripple effects.
- Go Small, Then Push. I was going to New York to visit my mom, so I reached out to my friend Susie to see if we could have dinner. “Yes, and you’ll stay with me!” she said. Staying with her gave us more time to connect than we would have had over dinner. I wasn’t sure about that decision initially. I was exhausted after traveling and seeing my mom, but spending time with Susie ended up energizing me. I’m so glad I said yes.
- Volunteer for Something You Believe In. Connecting isn’t all about our inner circle. It’s about ties with our larger community and even meeting new people. You might not find your new best friend doing volunteer work. In fact you might never see people outside of your weekly shift together, but you’ll spend time with like minded people. You can connect over a cause you care about — even if you are very different in other ways.
Go even simpler. Get out of your house and say hello to people you see. It might be disheartening if nobody says hi back, but the practice is in reaching out. Tell somebody you loved the book they are carrying. Send a “I saw this” or “heard this song” and thought of you, message to somebody you haven’t talked to in a while. Don’t worry that it’s out of the blue or that it’s been too long since you talked. Reach out. Connect. It makes a huge difference.
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Hi, I’m Melanie!
I’m a Journaling and Joy Coach and I believe your story is the key to the life you want.
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