More Americans than ever before are feeling lonely. In 2010, approximately 40 percent of Americans reported regularly feeling lonely, whereas only 20 percent of Americans in the 1980’s regularly felt lonely.
The feeling of loneliness is all about perception. We become lonely if we do not feel meaningfully connecting with our friends or if we do not have as many relationships as we would like. A person might be surrounded by acquaintances, but feel lonely because he does not have any truly meaningful friendships. Further, while one person may feel content with just one or two close friends, another person might feel lonely without more relationships.
Forming meaningful relationships with others requires us to be ourselves. We must share parts of ourselves openly and genuinely with others. Many people speculate that the rise in digital culture is contributing to Americans’ increasing feelings of loneliness. When we substitute digital interactions for real-life interactions, we often do not connect as meaningfully or share as much about our lives. Those who view others’ posts on social media but rarely share their own information are even more likely to feel lonely.
If you find yourself feeling lonely, try making a few changes to improve both the quantity and the quality of your interpersonal interactions:
• Schedule more face-to-face time with friends, rather than relying on digital interactions. Face-to-face interactions are far more rewarding than those conducted digitally.
• When having a conversation with a friend or acquaintance, make the effort to be as genuine and as true to yourself as possible. Doing so will make the relationship closer and the conversation more meaningful.
• Plan a get-together around a creative activity, such as a painting class. Creating art together helps form deep connections even when not directly talking about ourselves.
• Spend time building relationships with your neighbors. Feeling connected with neighbors helps instill a sense of community and significantly decreases feelings of loneliness.
• Engage in small talk. Even a few minutes spent talking while in line at the grocery store can help us feel more connected.
• Join an organization or club. You’ll have the opportunity to meet others who share similar interests or hobbies, which is a good step toward creating meaningful friendships.
Taking just a few steps to reconnect with others and foster more meaningful interactions can go a long way toward overcoming loneliness.
Christine Howard, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
** Information obtained from A Cure for Disconnection by Jennifer Latson, an article in the April 2018 issue of Psychology Today, was referenced in this blog.