We’ve all experienced loneliness a time or two. Loneliness is difficult. Mother Teresa said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” The good news is that loneliness and isolation are things you can conquer.
Being alone and lonely is a choice. We were born into families, which seems to indicate that we were created to be part of a community. It’s natural to long for relationship and companionship. Make the decision today to combat loneliness. We’ve got 10 tips for ways to get out of the rut of loneliness and into relationship and community.
1. Take a Class
We live in an age of education. Nearly every community has institutes of higher education within driving distance. If not, there are libraries, community centers and dance studios that offer classes for everyone. It doesn’t matter how old you are — there’s a class for you. Many classes in the community are free of charge as well.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to paint, sew, line dance or take decent photographs, now is the time to learn. Getting out of your home to learn a new skill with like-minded folks is an excellent way to find friends with similar interests and build new relationships. If you’re into academics, you may earn a degree while you’re at it. That’s a win-win situation.
2. Get Online
Please be advised that we’re not advising that this is the only way to combat loneliness. It’s important to get some face-to-face contact with humans regularly. However, social media can be an excellent way to find community when you’re homebound and need some interaction.
I have a close friend who is lovingly taking care of her husband with Alzheimer’s disease, at home. She can’t leave him alone for long periods of time. However, a support group on Facebook has been a saving grace to her. She can log in and “chat” online with other caregiving spouses whenever she needs encouragement.
Do more than just surf the web online. Join a local Facebook group. You’ll be surprised what turns up when you enter your city’s name in the search bar for groups. You will see gardening groups, support groups, singles groups and the like.
3. Share Your Talents
Volunteering doesn’t always mean hard labor. One excellent way to combat loneliness is to share your passions and gifts with others. Do you like to play chess? It’s almost certain there’s a nursing home in or near your community with other folks who like to play chess. Grab your chess board and go to your nearest retirement center. You don’t have to make an appointment. There are always people at these homes who seldom have visitors but are completely competent chess opponents. While you are enjoying a game you love and conquering your own loneliness, you can be enriching and blessing someone else’s life as well.
Another way to volunteer and share your passions is to contact a local 4-H chapter and offer to teach a skill like sewing, Dutch oven cooking or archery with children in the community. Opt to teach adults at the library. Most libraries are happy to offer free use of their meeting rooms if you open your class to the entire community. You can share your expertise and build friendships along the way.
4. Join a Club
Did you know there are regular book club meetings at your library? There are walking clubs and quilting groups as well. Go online to meetup.com. It’s a site where locals create groups and meet together, in person to do fun things. There are meetup groups for mothers with babies, empty-nester couples, singles, widows and others.
In his best-selling book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom wrote, “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.” There are many people in your community looking for companionship.
5. Go to Church
Churches and other places of worship are excellent places to find people who want to enjoy life together. If you aren’t religious, consider your parents’ religion or the religion of your ancestors. It may be enlightening to experience some of the traditions your forefathers found worthwhile.
One of the best things about churches is that they meet at least once a week. Often, smaller groups within the church will meet throughout the week as well. You’ll see the same people each time and have the opportunity to make friends.
There are also normally volunteer opportunities within a church as well. Most churches reach out to the community through a food pantry or youth outreach. Within the church, there are ways to contribute as well. If you like to play the piano, sing, greet people at the door or prepare refreshments, there’s likely a place for you at your local church.
6. Adopt a Pet
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 1.5 million pets are euthanized each year in the United States alone. Many of those animals would desire nothing more than to live out their lives as a companion in your home.
One of the best ways to dig yourself out of loneliness is to bring a dog home from the shelter. That dog won’t let you spend your entire day in bed. You’ll have a good reason to get up and take your new best friend out for a walk.
Pets can be a tremendous blessing for people who live alone. You can also be a tremendous blessing to an animal facing euthanasia. Consider taking in a pet as a sidekick if you’re feeling lonely.
7. Invite People Over
Not many people will turn down a free meal. Invite some neighbors over for dinner. If you commit to extending one invitation each week, you’ll probably end up with some return invitations as well. If you don’t cook, invite people over for pizza or have a potluck-style meal where you provide the store-bought fried chicken or sandwiches.
Having dinner guests will also help you keep your house tidier. We always clean better when a company is coming. It’s nice to have visitors to your home. Calla Quinn, the author of “All the Time, ” wrote, “Nothing makes a room feel emptier than wanting someone in it.”
8. Take a City Bus
If you live near a major city and have access to a bus line, take the city bus once in a while to go into town. Bus fare is generally inexpensive. Taking the bus will force to you to be around new people and get out of your comfort zone. There are more chances for interaction on the bus and at the bus stops than in your car by yourself.
9. Join a Gym
We know there’s a nice treadmill in the spare room that doubles as clothes drying rack. However, a better way to stay fit and combat loneliness is to join a local gym. Most gyms and fitness centers offer group fitness classes at no additional charge. Join one of those too. You’ll end up seeing the same people at the classes, time after time.
A wonderful way to stay fit and build a relationship is to meet someone for a workout or class at the gym. Once you notice someone who seems to share your schedule and happens to be at the same classes you attend, consider making plans to meet for class next time. Accountability will be great for both of you. You’ll almost assuredly make a new friend.
10. Talk with a Therapist
If the idea of any of these suggestions seems entirely overwhelming, consider speaking with a therapist. Universities offer discounted rates for counseling. Often, churches will employ very good counselors and charge nothing at all for services. Reach out to speak to someone. Talking about your loneliness with a professional will help you get to the root of the problem and gain the courage to enter into relationships and community.
Break the Ice
While these tips are great, you can do many of these things without truly engaging with anyone at all. You can attend church without shaking anyone’s hand or making eye contact with the person sitting next to you. It’s easy to hit the gym with an all-business attitude without even saying hello to the attendant at the front desk. The key is engagement.
When given the opportunity, most people are happy to talk about themselves. Approach someone nearby and make conversation. Ask questions. Be interested. Short story author Sylvia Plath wrote, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” Ask about peoples’ hobbies, their jobs, and their families. You’ll have to bounce the ball back in conversation a bit. If you don’t share a little bit about yourself too, the conversation could feel a bit more like an interrogation rather than a friendly chat.
If you try even one or two of these suggestions, you will feel less lonely. Put most or all of these practices into play, and your loneliness will disappear for good. It’s difficult to feel lonely when you’re making someone’s day by showing up at the retirement center to play bridge. Commit to combat your loneliness right now. You’ll be so glad you did.
Shelter intake and surrender. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics