5 Tips to Fight Loneliness

Around the globe, about 1 in 4 adults says they’re lonely. And the consequences of long-term social disconnection can be dire — everything from an increased risk of heart attacks to dementia and premature death.

But social isolation isn’t new or uncommon. And pangs of loneliness aren’t catastrophic. In fact, they’re nearly universal. What’s critical is how people respond to these feelings when they arise.

You can read the full story at NPR.org, but here are 5 tips to try to combat any loneliness you may be experiencing. 

1. Be curious: It’s easier to connect with people if you have shared interests or experiences, so start paying attention to what’s on your mind. What are you thinking about? What motivates you? What excites you? Nobel says knowing yourself can be a first step to bonding with others. “I think connecting authentically with other people is best done — and perhaps only done — if you have some kind of authentic connection with yourself,” Nobel says. If you know what’s meaningful or fun for you, it may lead you to an activity or creative outlet that connects you to people who share your interests.

2. Make something: “When we say make something, people immediately say, ‘Well, I’m not Picasso. I don’t know how to do a fancy painting,'” Nobel says. And, of course, you’re not! But the opportunities for creative expression are endless. “Do a doodle [or] a dance move,” Nobel suggests. Resurrect your grandma’s pie recipe, plant an herb garden, try a textile art. “Make something that puts your thoughts and feelings and vision about who you are and what matters into a tangible artifact that then can express those thoughts and feelings to others,” he says.

3. Take a risk by having conversations: “Share something about yourself,” Nobel says. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest, darkest secret of your life, but just something you think other people might find interesting and compelling, and see where it goes.” Even if you’re nervous about being judged or dismissed, putting yourself out there requires a bit of a risk, and it’s the first step to authentic connection. If you’ve made something — say your doodle or dance move or pie — this can be a catalyst to sharing. Simply explaining what you’ve made may make it easier to open up about who you are.

4. Find a group that matches your interests: Whether it’s volunteering for a cause you believe in or playing frisbee or Scrabble, try to find others who share your interests. And if you follow your natural curiosities, you may find something new. In his book, Nobel describes an online group that has a quirky shared interest: a fascination with brown bears in Alaska, which led to Fat Bear Week. “Share your thoughts and feelings in creative ways with other people who have that interest,” he says. And, hopefully, in those interactions you can begin to reveal yourself and share the unique things that matter to you. “Then, other people recognize that, share their story in return, and it’s like an electric circuit is connected,” he says.

5. Other people’s loneliness matters too: Loneliness can spiral. If the pangs of loneliness go unaddressed, people can end up in a world of hurt. “If you see someone who’s experiencing loneliness, tolerate the risk of asking them how they’re doing,” Nobel says. Be kind. Be willing to share something about your own experiences of loneliness, and take that risk. “Other people’s loneliness makes us lonely too,” he says.