How To Talk To A Parent, Sibling, Or Friend You Think Might Be Lonely

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Though loneliness has been a human issue forever, modern loneliness is endemic among both old and young in societies worldwide. The issue is so pervasive that the UK government launched a landmark scheme to tackle loneliness nationally in 2018. But if you think somebody you know might be lonely, knowing how to talk to themabout it can be tough. Being lonely is still seen as a taboo thing, and we often lack the right vocabulary to talk about it.

third of people in the UK expressed loneliness in a survey in 2018, and in 2019, a survey in the U.S. revealed 47 percent of respondents experienced feelings of loneliness. It’s not confined to any age, either; millennials are lonelier than previous generations, according to a study in 2018. Studies show that loneliness may partially be caused by the isolation of relationships conducted via social media and the risk of burnout at work. Many of us are also experiencing the loneliness of cities; as humans live in ever-more crowded metropolises in the 21st century, we also become increasingly separate from others. “You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour [sic] to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people,” writes critic and artist Olivia Laing in The Lonely City.

If you notice somebody close to you appears to be feeling isolated, here’s how to have a conversation about it without making them angry, defensive, or feel more isolated.

1. Take It Slow

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A conversation about somebody else’s loneliness, even if it’s somebody you’re really close to, can feel awkward and raise issues. “Be patient,” Age UK, an organization focused on the elderly (who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness), advises. “When people are lonely, particularly if it’s associated with poor mental health or physical health, they may get irritable or feel misunderstood by others. You may need to offer gentle assurance.” This is not a condemnation or an intervention; it’s an expression of concern, and it may take a few conversations before they’re willing to talk about how they’re feeling.

2. Use A Meal As An Opportunity To Talk

Using meals as a gateway to start this discussion is particularly recommended around major holidays, where lonely people can feel isolated and opportunities for food and shared meals are common. “Why not demonstrate that you’re thinking about someone by making them a delicious meal?” wrote Sabrina Barr for The Independent in 2018. This will not only build closeness into your relationship, it’ll also offer an opportunity to talk about their loneliness and what they need as you prepare food or share it together.

3. Speak From A Place Of Empathy

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People who are lonely don’t just need to “buck up” or “get themselves out there.” Talking down to lonely people, particularly if they have challenges that mean they can’t socialize very much — an illness, a caretaker role, shyness or mobility issues — isn’t going to help. “The use of an infantilising [sic] voice is more often than not experienced as disrespectful and humiliating, and can bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says the UK’s Campaign To End Loneliness.

4. Include Them in Bigger Events

Invite your parent, sibling, or friend to come to a big social occasion that will prompt them to feel a little less isolated, and then see if you can have some one-on-one time; in the light of their recent social interactions at your party or get-together, they may feel more relaxed about talking about their loneliness in general. It’s a double whammy; it helps lonely people feel more connected to others, and also offers a venue to chat where they might feel a bit more cheerful.

5. Come From A No-Judgement Point Of View

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Just as you wouldn’t offer judgment on a sick friend, you can help your loved one talk about loneliness without bringing up individual choices. “A warm, non-judgemental [sic] acceptance of the other person as whatever they are in that given moment during your helping relationship with them” is necessary when you’re dealing with their loneliness, the Campaign To End Loneliness says. “[Understand] that confronting painful feelings and changing their behaviour [sic] in some way can be a big step and a daunting challenge.” Focus on their feelings and how they’re choosing to express them, not your judgement of their situation.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About The Real Stuff

A survey of lonely American adults in 2018, TIME magazine reported, focused particularly on “meaningful relationships.” People who were lonely, the survey noted, had something in common: they said they had fewer people with whom they could “discuss matters of personal importance.” If you want to have a conversation with a lonely friend or family member, it may help to make time to hear about their life in general, and build meaning into your relationship.

Focus on being an empathetic listener. What are their day-to-day worries? What’s personally important to them? Creating or strengthening a meaningful relationship means you’ll have a better basis to talk about their loneliness, and they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable talking about it.

7. Let Them Guide The Conversation

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You’re ready to have a big conversation about loneliness — but let your loved one take charge. “Facilitate a conversation about loneliness, using the skills and qualities of empathy, openness, warmth and respect, and help people to understand their own circumstances and plan their own solutions,” recommends the Campaign To End Loneliness. You might have an idea or a thousand about things they could do to improve their loneliness — join a club! Learn a new skill! — but, the Campaign says, it’s better to let them take agency over the conversation (and what results from it).

It’s also valuable not to make assumptions about what they want; young moms might not want to do lots of stuff to do with motherhood or children, for instance. “We try and remove limits and expectations about roles and interests,” says the Campaign.

Loneliness can be a hard thing to battle — but a friend or family member who really wants to help is a valuable asset. Take on the job diplomatically, and you might be able to make a real difference for a lonely person.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

Here’s How Meditation Can Help With Loneliness & Acceptance Of Your Emotions, According To Science

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Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at one point or another, but of course, just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. Whether you’re living in a brand new city away from your hometown, or you landed a job that requires you to work remotely instead of in an office, that feeling of being alone can be overwhelming at times. If you’re struggling with these emotions yourself, it might comfort you to know that meditation can help with loneliness, according to the results of a new study.

For the study, The New York Times reports, researchers gathered 153 adults who described themselves as “stressed out” (which, per the news outlet, was meant to distract the participants from the real focus of the study, i.e. loneliness). To establish a baseline of where the participants were at in terms of their mindset at the beginning of the study, the researchers asked them to fill out a survey that included questions about their interactions with others, their social networks, and whether they regularly deal with any feelings of loneliness.

Additionally, the researchers monitored the participants in real time over a period of three days by texting them questions about “what they were doing and with whom,” according to The New York Times — you know, kind of like how your parents would always ask you to tell them what you were doing with your friends when you were in middle school, except, hopefully less lame?

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After those baseline measures, the participants were given an app to use on their phone, and the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into three groups: In one group, the app gave the participants some general tips for dealing with stress. In another group, the app taught the volunteers about mindfulness and the practice of “paying close attention to the moment and focusing on breathing and other sensations,” per The New York Times. In the third group, the app taught the participants the same mindfulness techniques as the second group, with additional instructions to “take note of and say ‘yes’ aloud to all sensations,” according to the news outlet. For instance, if a participant noticed that they could physically feel their tongue on the roof of their mouth, or even if they mentally noticed a feeling of sadness, they would then have to say “yes” out loud. The researchers called this approach to mindfulness “equanimity.”

Each group was told to use the app for 20 minutes, then practice their respective techniques for another 10 minutes on their own, every day for two weeks, per The New York Times. To measure any differences between the participants’ baseline mindset and how they felt after using the mindfulness strategies for a couple weeks, the researchers gave them the same survey questions, as well as the same three-day text monitoring.

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The results of the study, which have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, showed that the general stress management and mindfulness techniques had little to no effect on the participants who practiced them — but here’s where things got really interesting: According to The New York Times, the participants who practiced “equanimity” meditation were “measurably more sociable,” engaged in “several more interactions with people that lasted at least a few minutes,” and their survey responses showed “a decline in their feelings of loneliness.”

The researchers told The New York Times that they believe the equanimity aspect of meditation was “key” in making a difference in participants’ feelings of loneliness. And it kind of makes sense when you think about it, right? As the researchers wrote in the abstract of their study, developing an “orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences” — even when those present-moment experiences are uncomfortable or difficult to accept — can make a huge difference in dealing with feelings of loneliness. In other words, actively accepting negativity when it comes to you, rather than squashing it down, pretending it doesn’t exist, or worse, judging yourself for having those feelings in the first place, seems to be an effective way to deal with these emotions overall.

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Counselor and relationship expert David Bennett (who was not involved in the study) says that meditation in general can help with “emotion regulation.” He tells Elite Daily in an email, “It can help you avoid the emotional ups and downs that come from reacting to the various events in your daily life.”

In a sense, Bennett explains, meditation can help to ground you in “something deeper than just feelings that come and go,” and being grounded can not only help you feel less lonely, it can help you take steps toward avoiding loneliness — like reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile to meet for coffee, or asking a co-worker you get along with if they’d like to join you for happy hour drinks.

Again, loneliness is something that everyone deals with, so don’t be ashamed if you’re struggling with it. Consider practicing this type of acceptance meditation the next time these feelings overwhelm you, and remember, if you need a little extra help, it’s always OK to touch base with a professional about what you’re going through.

Negative Experiences on Social Media Tied to Loneliness

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Negative Experiences on Social Media Tied to Loneliness

Using social media does not appear to reduce feelings of loneliness. In fact, it can make you feel more lonely, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The findings reveal that social media users do not feel more connected even after engaging in positive experiences on the site; but they do feel more lonely after the negative experiences.

The study builds on 2017 research suggesting that more use of social media is associated with increased feelings of loneliness.

“Social media is, seemingly, about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media being linked to loneliness,” said lead author Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media Technology and Health (MTH) and Dean of Pitt’s Honors College.

“Perceived social isolation, which is a synonym for loneliness, is associated with poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Because social media is so pervasive, it is critically important that we better understand why this is happening and how we can help people navigate social media without as many negative consequences.”

For the new study, the researchers surveyed 1,178 West Virginia University students ages 18 to 30 about their social media use, to what extent their experiences were positive or negative, and their level of perceived loneliness. The authors investigated these perceptions of social media interactions across whatever combination of platforms students were using.

The findings show that, for every 10 percent increase in negative experiences on social media, the participants reported a 13 percent increase in feelings of loneliness. Yet for every 10 percent increase in positive experiences on social media, the participants reported no statistically significant change in feelings of loneliness.

It is not clear whether individuals who feel lonely are seeking out or attracting negative social media experiences, or if they are having negative social media experiences that are leading to perceived isolation, said author Jaime Sidani, Ph.D., who also is assistant director of Pitt’s MTH.

“There is a tendency for people to give greater weight to negative experiences and traits compared with positive ones, and this may be particularly relevant when it comes to social media,” said Sidani.

“So, positive experiences on social media may be associated with fleeting positive reinforcement, while negative experiences — such as public social media arguments — may rapidly escalate and leave a lasting, potentially traumatic impression.”

“It also may be that socially isolated people lean toward social media use that involves negative interactions. It is probably a mix of both.”

The researchers say more research is needed to further explain and replicate the study, but the findings are strong enough to warrant efforts to intervene now to reduce feelings of loneliness associated with social media use.

“Health practitioners may encourage the public to be more cognizant and thoughtful regarding their online experiences, thereby interrupting a potential cycle of negative experiences and loneliness,” said Primack. “It may be useful to encourage awareness and education around positive and negative social media experiences.”

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Feeling Lonely? Discover 18 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

Author Article

The great irony is that as we become increasingly “connected”—on social media, video calling, and messaging—we simultaneously feel increasingly lonely. And even though we may use technology to feel more connected, it may be exactly what’s leading us to feel lonely.

Are you feeling socially connected? (take this well-being quiz to see how you’re feeling). If not, try some of these 18 strategies to stop feeling lonely.

1. Practice self-kindness when you’re feeling lonely

In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-kindness. Blaming ourselves when we feel lonely is not helpful. So limit your hurtful self-talkengage in some self-care, and just generally give yourself a break. Perhaps a walk in nature or a day at the spa may be helpful for getting yourself into a self-kindness mood.

2. Capitalize on the present moment when you’re feeling lonely

When you feel good about something, share it with others right away, and I don’t mean “share” by posting on your social media. You could share by calling or texting a friend. Or share with the people you work with. Keep in mind that the positive things that you can share don’t have to be big. You could simply have woken up on the right side of the bed and think, “Hey, I’m feeling great today.” By sharing these moments, you create small moments of connection with others that can help you overcome loneliness.

3. Connect in real life when you’re feeling lonely

Connecting in real life may not be as easy as it once was. We often default to using our smartphones—it’s easier, and now, and it’s culturally accepted. But we can decrease our loneliness if we build stronger in-person connections. We do this by looking people in the eyes, listening, being mindful, and choosing not be distracted by our phones or other technologies.

4. Rethink how you spend your spare time when you’re feeling lonely

When we feel lonely, sometimes we just want to retreat into a corner and hide. Other times, our endless to-do list may leave us too exhausted to go out and be social. But opting to stay alone every night with our phoneswatching Netflix, or playing on Facebook can really get us stuck in loneliness. We’ve created a life for ourselves that deprives of us of meaningful social connection, and the only way to get out of it is to start living differently.

If we instead use our loneliness to motivate us to reach out to people, then we can strengthen our relationships. By opting to cope with our loneliness by seeking out social support, we create more social moments with the people in our lives that matter to us, which usually reduces our loneliness.

5. Do more things with people to feel less lonely

Engaging in face-to-face social interactions tends to improve our mood and reduce depressionActivities that involve other people — such as attending religious services or engaging in sports — are also likely to have positive effects on our mental health. So find ways to be around people more.

6. Talk to strangers when you’re feeling lonely

A growing body of research suggests that even seemingly trivial interactions with strangers — like chatting with a barista or cashier — may be able to keep loneliness at bay by helping us feel more socially connected. So reach out to other human beings to say hello, ask them how they are, or chat about whatever’s on your mind. These small acts can make a big difference and help you reduce feelings of loneliness.

7. Be active online when you’re feeling lonely

Instead of passively surfing the net or your social media, if you want to go online, opt instead to do something that involves the active participation of other people. For example, you could play games with others, chat about something you care about, give advice on a forum, or have a video call with a friend. The more you interact with others while online, the more connected you are likely to feel.

8. Share for real online when you’re feeling lonely

Somewhere along the way, the word “sharing” got co-opted on social media to describe what is really just “humble bragging.” We post about cool things we did, nice meals we ate, or a fun party we went to—all things that we didn’t actually share with the people who are viewing our posts.

Instead of posting about things you did, reclaim the word “share” for what it really means—to give a small or large portion of what is yours to someone else. You could share advice, words of support, or even empathy all from your smartphone. As a result, your connections are likely to be more kind and supportive.

9. Stop focusing so much on you when you’re feeling lonely

It’s almost inevitable in our modern technology-crazed world that we start to believe that we don’t have enough. Bob got a new car. Sherri got a new house. Sonja got a new job. We also see false or unrealistic images—models Photoshopped to have perfect waists and abs—and we feel envious. As a result, we become increasingly focused on how we are not measuring up.

Instead of focusing on what you can get, shift your focus to what you can give. You could sell T-shirts online to raise money for a good cause. You could ask friends to donate to a charity for your birthday. By giving to others, you take the focus off yourself and do good at the same time, helping you to feel more connected and less lonely.

10. Stop your negative thought cycles when you’re feeling lonely

We might repeatedly think about what we could have done differently to prevent ourselves from feeling so alone. We ruminate on the events or people or causes, because we mistakenly believe that thinking about our loneliness over and over again will help us solve it. Unfortunately, it does us no good to get caught up in our thoughts instead of taking the actions we need to feel better.

To put an end to these negative thought cycles, we need to take action—do something different that stops these thoughts and changes our experience of the world. For example, if I’m feeling lonely, I’ll go to the gym or schedule lunches with friends for the next few days. And it helps.

11. Generate a sense of awe when you’re feeling lonely

Awe (like when we witness the birth of new baby, or a majestic mountain) makes time seem like it’s standing still and helps us be more open to connecting. Something about feeling small in the context of a big world appears to help us see ourselves as a part of a whole, which may help us feel less alone. So expose yourself to something that creates awe—like landscapes, new experiences, or new foods.

12. Spend money on experiences when you’re feeling lonely

If we’re spending all our money on things, we wont have the cash to spend money on experiences with others. And it turns out that spending money on experiences is way better for our mental health. So get creative and think about what you want to do with others. For example, I might go on a canoeing trip, go wine tasting, plan a beach party, or host arts & crafts night. What group activities might make you feel less lonely?

13. Pay attention to the things that matter when you’re feeling lonely

How do we expect to improve our loneliness when we don’t know what causes it? It’s hard. So it’s helpful to start paying attention to the present moment. What are the experiences that make you feel lonely? And what are the experiences that make you feel connected or like you belong? Identifying these moments can help you reduce loneliness because you can limit engagement in the activities that make you feel lonely and increase engagement in the activities that make you feel connected.

14. Create a vision board when you’re feeling lonely

I keep a vision board tacked up by my desk to remind me of my goals. A big chunk of my vision board is about connecting—building community, networking, spending time with family, and the like. Sometimes I have a hard time sticking to it, but having the vision board reminds me to. Once you discover the things that make you feel less lonely and more connected, it can be helpful to create a board or list or plan for what you’ll do—something to keep near you so you remember what you need to do to combat loneliness.

15. Tend to your network when you’re feeling lonely

Sometimes we can end up feeling alone even though we are connected to lots of people. So it can be helpful to reach out to these people and schedule times to catch up. Aim to schedule at least one social hour per week—a coffee date, lunch, or happy hour. Who knows, maybe an old friendship can be reignited.

16. Join an online group of like-minded people when you’re feeling lonely

You can now find people online with just about any interest—for example, politics, cooking, or sports. Joining one of these mission-oriented groupscan be a way to feel more connected to others, even when you don’t have access to face-to-face interactions. You might get to know some new people or make life-long friends. You can even try out a few groups to see which ones fit you best and decrease your loneliness the most.

17. Volunteer remotely or in real life when you’re feeling lonely

For some of us, it’s hard to find people to spend time with, let alone connect with. So we have to find new people. One way to do this is by volunteering for a cause, either remotely or in your town. Just be sure you’re working with others. Working on an important problem with others can help you decrease loneliness.

18. Be nice to yourself when you experience failures

It’s important to practice self-compassion when you fail at things. Remember, everyone fails, and there is no need to be a bully to yourself, feel guilty, or put yourself down. That kind of attitude won’t help you decrease loneliness now or in the future. Instead, try talking to yourself in a way that is supportive, kind, and caring — and you’ll be more likely to acknowledge mistakes you may have made in trying to decrease loneliness, and hopefully do better next time.

Want to learn more about how to build well-being? Check out Berkeleywellbeing.com.