How to combat loneliness

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Certain pursuits and professions attract introverts. Writing is one of them. If you’ve found your loneliness increasing over the last several months, take some steps now to turn it around….

By Ann Gomez 

For many, the pandemic shone a light on a different epidemic: loneliness.

A 2021 Harvard study revealed more than one in three Americans experience feelings of loneliness, and not surprisingly, the numbers increased during the pandemic.

When we’re busy, we often retreat and may let some friendships and social connections slide. As well, the act of writing is a solitary pursuit. It puts us on our own, with our computers, often for extended chunks of time. But taking care of our relationships is an essential form of wellbeing.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development shows the powerful influence of our relationships on our health. This study began in 1938 and is one of the longest-running studies on happiness. The survey group comprised people from various economic and social backgrounds, including Harvard undergrads and Boston’s inner-city residents. (President John F. Kennedy was part of the original group).

The study found those individuals who were more socially connected to family, to friends, and to their community were happier, healthier, and lived longer than those who did not embrace community in the same way.

In addition, the study showed a strong social support means less cognitive deterioration as we age, and in fact, the study group’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was found to be a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels.

Conversely, we know loneliness is extremely detrimental and considered a serious health hazard. People who feel lonely and isolated may experience a decline in brain function and ultimately have a shorter life span.

If your relationships could use some extra attention, here are four strategies you can use to reconnect with friends and loved ones, and to make new friends as well.

Invest in others

Dr. Martin Seligman, considered the founder of the field of positive psychology, recommends performing acts of kindness to benefit yourself and others. “Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in wellbeing of any exercise we have tested.”

Think of friendships like a bank account. Every kind act and encouraging message is like a deposit.

We also want to invest time in our friendships. Relationships take time to nurture, so make yourself available. Is there an activity like hiking, or another shared experience you and your friend can enjoy together? Perhaps there is a class or club you could join with a friend who shares a common interest or hobby.

But don’t rule out the power of a quick check-in. This can help you stay connected until you can make time for a more extended visit.

Likewise, not all interactions require extended conversations to lift your spirits. A quick connection with anyone from a neighbour or even a total stranger can be incredibly uplifting and the benefits will last beyond the brief interaction itself. Do you ever feel a boost of energy when you talk to your barista or exchange pleasantries with a stranger on a plane or subway? These day-to-day interactions can have an immediate positive effect on our body, from our immune system to our breathing.


Listening is one of the best gifts you can give to someone else. Put down your phone, turn away from your computer, and genuinely tune in to what they are saying. And try to remember what they tell you! People want to feel seen, heard and valued.

Share your appreciation

Gratitude strengthens our relationships. Don’t assume your friends know how much you value them. Tell them exactly what you adore about them and say it often. When we express appreciation, we tap into a core human need. And this helps us build trust and connections.


Volunteering is a great opportunity to meet others who share common interests. It gives us a wellbeing boost. The magic volunteering number seems to be 100 hours a year or roughly two hours a week. A study of almost 13,000 adults found those who volunteered at least two hours a week experienced greater happiness, optimism, and purpose in life, compared to those who did not volunteer at all. They also had a reduced risk of mortality, were more physically active, and had lower depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, loneliness and isolation compared to those who did not volunteer.

Turns out, when we help others, we also help ourselves.

Our relationships are an essential pillar of our wellbeing. I hope this inspires you to make the most of your connections. And thank you for connecting with me here!

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