8 Ways to Keep Loneliness Away
Are you lonely? No, not just being “alone” kind of lonely, but feeling detached, adrift or isolated even in a crowd?
If you are, you are not alone.
According to a study by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), 18% of seniors live alone, with 43% of them feeling regularly lonely.
The bad news is that (in the same study), of the 60-yr-old survey participants, 45% shows an increased risk of mental and physical decline and early death, compared to their more sociable counterparts.
Somewhat scary, isn’t it?
I live alone and loneliness stare at me in face each day. My dining table for four feels extra large when I eat my meals alone, and food, no matter how tasty, is bland in my mouth.
I fight off tears each night for lack of having no one to talk to by myself.
It is maddening, to say the least. But to give in to the deadly embrace of loneliness is bad news. I had to fight it off every single day of my life to stay sane.
How I do it is rather simple – just plain common sense and the determination to live a life of joy, not sadness. It is so easy, even a child can do it. So can you.
1. Take a walk:
No matter how cozy, your home can feel like a jail if you spend most of the time inside. It can be so stifling. So go out and take a walk.
Walk along the shore of an ocean or lake, if one is nearby. The cool breeze sweeping over it is cool, fresh and invigorating. Listen to the gentle ripple of the waves, the rustle of leaves and the songs of the birds.
The stillness of Nature is a great healer. Absorb it, immerse yourself in it, and fill your soul with it.
Go to a park if you are a city-slicker. Fill your senses with the beauty of your surroundings.
Or rummage through the gift stores and buy a gift for a family member, a friend or, you. You deserve it.
If not, leaf through interesting books in a bookstore. Books are excellent items to keep your mind off yourself.
Loneliness is caused by excessive inward thinking. Taking a walk will refocus your inward thoughts, outwards.
And it is a good exercise.
2. Join a club:
I am sure you are interested or passionate about something, then expand your interest by joining a club near you. It is fun
It allows you to socialize with a purpose, share what you have, and learn from others.
Three days a week I play tennis. Not only is it good exercise, the fun of interacting with my fellow club members is good for the soul.
But don’t join for the sake of joining. Be active, participate and be counted upon. Otherwise, you might as well stay home and enjoy your loneliness like a puss-filled tooth cavity.
3. Talk to people:
Loneliness is a result of having no connection to other people. And there’s no other way around that but talking to people to get connected.
Don’t be shy. Even the most introverted needs to get connected with others. People are social beings, it is in our genes.
I admit I am alone most of the time, but I never shy away from the opportunity to talking to people. I talk to taxi drivers, sidewalk vendors, strangers in coffee shops, sales girls and anyone who is open to casual conversation.’
Ask them about their family and children. These topics are great ice-breakers with strangers and friends alike. Everybody loves to talk about their family and children.
But never shift the focus on you. If you do talk about yourself, never talk about how lonely you are, medical conditions, or your financial worth. These turn even your closest friends off.
4. Go to a coffee shop:
Coffee shops are everywhere these days and they attract all sorts of people, i.e., young, old, students, professionals, businessmen, single men and women bonding with friends or seeking new ones, or just about anybody with time to kill and money to spend on a good latte or cappuccino.
Every afternoon finds me in my favorite coffee shop where I do part of my writing and get away from the loneliness of home. It is a part of my routine, and I don’t think I can get by without spending a couple of hours a day in my coffee shop
Aside from the creative juice in being in the midst of a people, I get to talk to regular guys, strangers, foreigners and just about anybody willing to let me sit with them even for a few minutes.
Over a mug of brewed coffee, you can simply sit and watch the world go by, or talk to the nearest guy near you. Coffee shop folks are always open to light and friendly conversation. At least I haven’t yet heard somebody getting mugged in a coffee shop, or slapped for being fresh.
Watch for nonverbal clues, though, like a smile, friendliness in appearance or openness. In such case, a simple “Hi, how are you doing?” can start you off.
5. Be of help:
There is always somebody out in worse condition than you, i.e., children in an orphanage, old and senile people in nursing homes, beggars on the streets, lonely patients in hospital wards, or a neighbor with a leaky faucet or a child having problems with homework. Don’t hold back, but help if the opportunity arises.
Nothing is more satisfying, more gratifying, more joyful than to help someone with a problem.
If you can lift them up, maybe not financially, but psychologically, then you have done a great and noble deed. It can make you sleep at night with a smile on your face.
A happy soul is not a lonely soul.
6. Have a pet:
Science has shown over and over again that pets are good hedge against loneliness.
Pets are very friendly, loyal, and they are always there for you. They never complain or hold a grudge. They send you off when you leave, and greet you when you get back.
I spent countless evenings playing with Nicole, my pet Labrador. She was simply adorable and intelligent. Even when she could barely stand due to her medical conditions, she would crawl beside me so we can play.
I cried buckets of tears when I decided to euthanize her after being diagnosed with liver failure and heart disease. I thought it was more humane than to see her suffer until death.
7. Be self-aware:
Being self-aware is not being self-centered. Self-awareness is the realization of what and who you are in relation with the world. Self-centeredness is to think of oneself as the center of the world.
The latter induces loneliness, the former provides the path out of it. Unless you know what bugs you, you could never come up with viable solutions to get you out of your loneliness.
For example, I rarely go out with male friends because, generally, men are very poor companions for chilling out. They are poor conversationalists, too loud, and tend to go beyond the limits I have imposed for myself. They often make me lose my self control.
Being aware of that fact, makes me enjoy my lone moments, rather than rue over it.
8. Seek help:
When everything else fails, seek professional help.
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It is trying to get the opinion of others regarding your condition, like we normally do in the other aspects of our lives, i.e., how to get rid of the aphids that are destroying your roses.
Your loneliness may not be just a case of melancholia over the loss of someone or something, but the onset of depression, which can be cured before it becomes a full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
While there are no indications that loneliness is pathogenic, but frequent loneliness will signal the brain to react in ways that are all detrimental to your health and overall well-being.
As a live alone senior, loneliness is not a stranger to me. But I know the repercussions of giving in to it. It makes you feel lethargic, lose your appetite, affects your hygiene, your sleep; it robs you of the desire to do anything meaningful, bringing your body to a halt. When that happens, death is just around the corner.
At your funeral, do you want people to say, “He died because he forgot to laugh and have fun?” ‘
I don’t and I bet, you don’t, either.